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Physical activity is constantly promoted by trainers, health professionals, and education systems, but is everyone truly aware of all its benefits? Most people only acknowledge the effect exercise has on their physical appearance, but there is so much more. Physical activity has many additional benefits, including mental, emotional, and physiological. Perhaps, the most overlooked benefit of exercise is physiologically, especially for disease prevention and alleviation. Here are some diseases that can be prevented or improved through physical activity!

  • Heart Disease: Exercise helps lower many cardiovascular risk factors, including lowering blood pressure, weight, and raising high-density lipoprotein or “good cholesterol”. Read our article about a healthy lifestyle’s impact on heart disease here. 
  • Type 2 Diabetes: In a study posted in the Diabetes Care journal, both 150 minutes of physical activity each week and weight loss of 5-7%, was found to reduce the progression of impaired glucose tolerance to type 2 diabetes by 58%.
  • Osteoporosis  Exercise reduces osteoporosis because it reduces the rate of bone loss, which significantly lowers the chance of fractures. Weight-bearing exercises should be used when trying to prevent or alleviate osteoporosis because moving against gravity strengthens bones. Also, exercises focused on improving balance prove to be beneficial since they lower the likelihood of falling and injury.
  • Certain Cancers: According to a study by the National Cancer Institute, certain cancers such as esophageal, lung, kidney, colon, bladder, breast cancer, etc. were associated with a 7% lower risk for active people than in sedentary individuals. Read our article about the link between fat and cancer here. 
  • Obesity:  Obesity is a pressing issue in our country today, with an annual report in 2019 finding that 30% of the population is obese, and it is only set to increase. Physical activity can return a person back to a healthy body weight by increasing total energy expenditure as well as metabolic rate.
  • High blood Pressure: High blood pressure is lowered through physical activity simply by the fact that exercise makes the heart stronger, which allows it to pump blood with less effort. Since there is less effort, or force, on the arteries, there is a decrease in blood pressure. Read our article about foods that reduce blood pressure here. 
  • Arthritis: Physical activity can alleviate pain associated with arthritis because it increases a person’s flexibility, joint mobility, and strength. These advantages improve joint pain and inflammation, both characteristics of arthritis. Often, physical activity is a preferred treatment option for those suffering from the condition. 
  • Asthma: Usually, physical activity is thought to be avoided or limited in individuals with asthma, but it can actually reduce symptoms! Exercise increases lung capacity, promotes blood flow to the lungs and heart, and decreases airway inflammation, all of which make asthma interfere less with daily activities. 
  • Depression: Exercise is known to release endorphins; however, it also releases growth factors, which cause nerve cells to grow and make new connections. Growth, especially in the hippocampus, reduces the risk of depression, as it is observed that this region is smaller in those with depression. For more information, read our article about exercise and depression here. 
  • Dementia: Regular physical activity has been shown to reduce the risk of dementia by 30% according to the combination of 11 separate studies by the Alzheimer’s Society. This is due to exercise notably improving cognitive function and memory. 

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