Losing weight is one of the most common reasons people exercise, but it is easy to get frustrated if the pounds do not come off as fast as you had hoped. While it is tempting to stop if you do not see weight loss, there are many other reasons to keep exercising. A regular fitness routine has health benefits for just about every system in your body.

Improves Heart Health

Exercise reduces the risk of heart diseases, including heart attack and coronary artery disease. It is especially effective at helping eliminate plaque from the arteries, and it improves many factors that contribute to heart function, including the organ's ability to transport oxygen and how well that oxygen diffuses into the tissues.

A woman looking at her smartwatch


Improves Lung Health

Exercise also benefits the lungs. During exercise, the body works harder, using more oxygen and producing more carbon dioxide. Over time, exercise increases muscle strength and, as such, the body breathes less hard, producing less carbon dioxide. This reduces the amount of effort your lungs need to breathe.

As your physical fitness improves, your body gets better at getting oxygen into the bloodstream and to the muscles. In time, you are less likely to experience shortness of breath during exercise.

A woman runner breathing fresh air


Lowers the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Studies on people with prediabetes show just how effective exercise is at lowering the risk of developing type 2. One impressive six-year study done in China demonstrated that study participants whose only intervention was exercise, with no dietary changes, had a 46 percent reduction in the onset of diabetes.

In contrast, the group that changed only their diet had a 31 percent reduction. Exercise increases glucose uptake in skeletal muscle, bypassing the insulin receptors in cells and directly affecting insulin resistance.

A woman checking insulin pump and blood sugar monitor while hiking


May Prevent Bone Loss

Exercise may prevent bone loss. Researchers consider it a way to stimulate bone growth in patients with osteoporosis, though the effects depend on the type of exercise.

Walking, for example, does not seem to improve bone mass, but it can slow down bone loss. Strength training and resistance training, on the other hand, increase both muscle mass and bone density in the parts of the body being exercised.

A senior couple stretching their knees at the park


Reduces the Risk of Some Cancers

Many studies show that exercise reduces the risk of some cancers. More than 100 studies looked at the links between various cancers and exercise, and the results indicate that moderate physical activity leads to a significant reduction.

Men and women who are physically active have a 30 to 40 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer, with women also having a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of developing breast cancer. In addition, those who are physically active who do have cancer have a lower risk of reoccurrence and death.

A woman smiling showing her muscles while wearing a pink breast cancer awareness ribbon


Improves Sleep

Research indicates that exercise decreases insomnia and other sleep complaints. Researchers are unsure how exercise improves sleep, but it appears to be as effective as some sleeping pills.

Moderate exercise increases the amount of deep sleep people get, and it can help decompress the brain to help people fall asleep faster.

A man sleeping on the couch while holding a dumbbell



Increases Endurance

Exercise increases endurance, which not only helps with future exercise but also in tasks and activities of daily life.

Because exercise improves your heart, lungs, and muscles, it helps you do things like mow the lawn, play with your children or grandchildren, carry in groceries, and dance at a wedding without getting tired and breathless.

A father and his son playing football on a lawn


Relieves Stress

Exercise has many stress-relieving benefits. It increases endorphins, neurotransmitters in the brain that reduce discomfort, stress, and anxiety, and increase pleasure.

Exercise also reduces the physical effects of tension and stress, and it is a welcome distraction that helps you forget about whatever is stressing out — for half an hour, at least.

A man smiling while stretching outdoors


Improves Mood

Research shows that exercise is an effective treatment for depression. Low-intensity exercise sustained over time releases protein growth factors in the brain. These factors stimulate nerve cell growth, promoting new connections.

Doctors who have studied the brains of people with depression determined that they have smaller hippocampi, the part of the brain the regulates mood. When nerve cells grow and make more connections in the hippocampus, it can help relieve depression.

A man laughing while playing basketball



Lowers Dementia Risk

Some studies suggest that aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive impairment. Researchers believe this may be due to exercise slowing down age-related changes in the synapses in the brain and maintaining blood flow.

Research is ongoing for how exercise affects Alzheimer's disease, with one study showing that patients with Alzheimer's who exercise regularly have improved blood flow and a larger hippocampus. Physical inactivity is the most common preventable risk factor for Alzheimer's.

A group of seniors exercising at the gym


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