Health benefits of physical activity

All three aspects of health can be positively influenced by physical activity.

Physical health benefits include:

  1. Injury – regular physical activity can strengthen and tone muscles, strengthen bones and joints and keep the body mobile and more flexible. All of these things reduce the risk of injury.
  2. Coronary heart disease (CHD) – physical activity improves cardiovascular fitness and keeps the heart, lungs and blood vessels strong and healthy, reducing the risk of CHD.
  3. Blood pressure (hypertension) – physical activity lowers blood pressure by strengthening the heart and cardiovascular system and improving circulation.
  4. Bone density – weight bearing exercise increases bone density. This is especially important for older people to reduce the impact of osteoporosis and help prevent bone breakages after falls.
  5. Obesity – physical activity helps to prevent or reduce obesity as it uses up calories (over a period of time, if more calories are used up than taken in, body weight will decrease).
  6. Type 2 diabetes – physical activity increases the amount of glucose used by the muscles for energy, so it helps lower blood glucose levels. Being active also helps the body to use insulin more efficiently, and regular activity can help reduce the amount of insulin diabetics have to take.
  7. Posture – physical activity helps strengthen the core or postural muscles and mobilises the spine, keeping it flexible and alleviating back pain. Exercise also increases awareness of body position and improves motivation and confidence which can help with posture.
  8. Fitness – regular physical activity improves fitness so the body is more resilient and less prone to injury in both sport and everyday life. The ability to withstand and recover from illness is also related to fitness.

Emotional health benefits include:

  1. Self-esteem and confidence – completion or success in an activity can give a sense of satisfaction. Self-esteem is increased by doing well or sticking to an exercise or training routine.
  2. Stress management – exercise and physical activity can be enjoyable. Dynamic exercise or more intense physical activity can relieve tension and stress.
  3. Image – when people exercise they may feel happier due to a release of endorphins into the body, and see the long term health benefits on their appearance.

Social health benefits include:

  1. Friendship – friendships increase as participants make friends with other members of the club, group or class.
  2. Belonging to a group – feeling of belonging gained from a common experience or shared activity.
  3. Loneliness – less loneliness and isolation experienced and participation can lead to other interests and friendships beyond the activity.
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