5 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Exercise


Exercise can offer significant advantages to your life, including reducing your risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, helping you manage your weight, and improving your mood. Of course, people prefer different workout types; some might enjoy daily walks with their dog, whereas others prefer yoga or training for a marathon. Some choose a different location to exercise, such as a gym or park, while others want to work out in the comfort of their home. As long as you get moving, you can reap immediate rewards.

As a baseline, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise every week and preferably spread throughout the week. You should also try to incorporate moderate- to high-intensity strengthening activities (like weightlifting) at least two days each week.

For the health benefits of exercise, you can simply look at the science, which demonstrates how powerful working out can be for the body. Here are five evidence-based reasons to add physical activity to your day.

Reduces Risk of Chronic Disease

The National Institute of Health (NIH), in a recently published review on the cardiovascular effects and benefits of exercise, found that frequent exercise is substantially associated with decreases in cardiovascular-related deaths and risks of developing cardiovascular disease. The NIH also says that anyone physically active often has lower blood pressure, a more favorable plasma lipoprotein profile, and a decline in developing a respiratory disease compared to those who do not exercise.

Promotes Weight Management

To lose weight, top-tier organizations agree that exercise is essential. The American Diabetes Association, the American Academy of Clinical Endocrinologists, and the National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend exercise as a vital part of any weight loss program.
In a study on losing weight with exercise alone, researchers found that participants lost 7 percent of their body weight with 16.8 weeks of exercise, and the study subjects preserved lean body mass and improved maximal oxygen consumption.

Improves Mood

Having a bad day? Exercise. Peer-reviewed evidence shows that physical activity can transform your emotional state. In a recent study, researchers asked participants to complete a questionnaire before and immediately after exercising.

Results showed that everyone's psychological state improved from pre- to post-session. The participants had an even more improved mood when they exercised a second time in a week.

Benefits Stability

Falls are a significant cause of death and injury in older adults, but exercise can improve stability in older adults to help them avoid falling. In a systematic review on evaluating exercise interventions for fall prevention, which incorporated 108 randomized trials and 23,407 participants, researchers identified exercise as the only intervention that helped community-dwelling older adults reduce the rate of falls and risk of falling. This means that exercise alone made a difference in fall rates.

Encourages Restful Sleep

Exercise can help you sleep better, even if you only perform simple physical activities. In a systematic review and meta-analysis of 22 randomized controlled trials on sleep quality and exercise, researchers found that exercise significantly improved sleep in adults compared with control interventions. This was true for all different types of exercise, from vigorous cycling to relaxed, mind-body, and gentle exercises.

How to Incorporate Exercise Into Your Routine

You can easily incorporate exercise into your daily routine, the simplest of which is walking. You can park farther from the store, walk to the mailbox instead of driving, or take a stroll after eating meals (which allows you to digest your food better, too).

You can also break up exercise into short stints of activity throughout your day. For instance, take a 10-minute walking break a few times a day at a rate of at least 2.5 miles per hour.

Everyday Activities to Incorporate

Other activities that you can add to your daily routine include:

  • Gardening
  • Heavy yardwork
  • Climbing stairs instead of taking an elevator
  • Cleaning the house
  • Lifting weights when you watch TV

A Word from Verywell

Exercise is vital for your overall well-being and can help you improve your lifestyle in immeasurable ways, such as getting a better night's sleep, reducing your risk of diseases, and improving your mood.

Even on a day that you feel lethargic, a short workout (even a 10-minute walk) can lift your energy levels. If you have any questions about starting an exercise program, you should speak with a health care professional for advice. The goal is to find a workout regime that fits your background and current lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How often should you exercise?

    You should try to follow the American Health Association's (AHA) activity recommendations for adults, including getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, preferably spread throughout the week. The AHA also suggests incorporating moderate- to high-intensity resistance training at least two days a week. You may gain more health benefits by staying active at least five hours per week.

  • What are the best types of exercise?

    The American Heart Association (AHA) says that almost any physical activity is better than none. The best type of exercise is the movement that you enjoy and will consistently do.

    If you are looking for exercise types that can burn the most calories in the shortest amount of time, the AHA provides a few examples. These calories are for a 150-pound person:

    • Jogging at 7 miles per hour: 920 calories per hour
    • Jumping rope: 750 calories per hour
    • Swimming at 50 yards per minute: 500 calories per hour
    • Walking at 4.5 miles per hour: 440 calories per hour
  • What are the immediate benefits of exercise?

    Exercise can provide several immediate benefits, including providing a better night's sleep, lowering insomnia, improving cognition, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, giving you a better sense of overall well-being, and helping you manage your weight.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  5. Ng CACM, Fairhall N, Wallbank G, Tiedemann A, Michaleff ZA, Sherrington C. Exercise for falls prevention in community-dwelling older adults: trial and participant characteristics, interventions and bias in clinical trials from a systematic reviewBMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019;5(1):e000663. doi:10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000663

  6. Xie Y, Liu S, Chen XJ, Yu HH, Yang Y, Wang W. Effects of exercise on sleep quality and insomnia in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsFront Psychiatry. 2021;0. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2021.664499

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By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, CPT
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."