You have surely already heard about the advantages of exercise and its beneficial effects on the human body. Being physically active a few times a week is recommended primarily by the World Health Organization, and also by doctors or fitness trainers and advocates of a healthy lifestyle. However, even today, many people tend to have a more sedentary lifestyle with hours spent behind a computer or in front of a television screen and so on. Why is that so?
Among the most frequent excuses why people do not exercise is that they do not have the strength or the right physical condition, do not have a gym buddy and do not want to exercise on their own, or, and the probably most common excuse is they do not have time. It’s not so easy to start exercising, but once you get into it and stick with it, you will eventually develop a healthy habit. It is very similar as your first steps in the early childhood. When you learned to walk, you simply didn’t want to stop.
If you are finally considering changing and getting out of your comfort zone a few times a week, moving more, and living more actively, in this article you will learn the 9 biggest benefits that exercise will provide your body with. We believe that after reading them, you will immediately feel like going for a run in nature or at least going for a long walk.
How to start exercising and which activity to choose?
Exercise and physical activity are great ways to diversify your life, feel better, and most importantly be healthier. In order for exercise to become a long-term part of your life, you don’t have to rush into it recklessly. That’s why it’s nice to keep a few things in mind before you start living more actively thanks to physical activity.
1. Check your health condition
“The expert at anything was once a beginner.” And although light physical activity, such as brisk walking, is safe for most people, health professionals recommend that you consult your physician about your health condition before beginning an exercise program. This is especially important for those who are not used to physical activity in the long run, as well as for individuals after their forties. Early health check can diagnose any health problems that could expose the body to an unwanted risk of injury during exercise. It is also recommended for:
- diabetes type I and II
- kidney disease
- high blood pressure 
Based on the check-up, your doctor will advise you on what type of exercise you can do and what you should avoid, so you can focus on the second step.
2. Create a training plan and set realistic goals
This is the most common reason why people stop exercising after the initial excitement and euphoria. Exercising whenever you want is especially unreasonable in the beginning. It often happens that you can fall into your previous stereotype and prefer anything from your past rather than exercise.
Therefore, it is especially important to plan your workouts and set realistic goals. You are the one who understands you best, so you know that you prefer morning workouts before other activities, or whether you will rather sweat in the gym or on the treadmill after them. Plan your training sessions in the same way as you usually plan, for example, meetings with friends.
And most importantly, you shouldn’t expect the maximum of yourself right away and don’t overdo it at the beginning. Set realistic goals, exercise at regular intervals if possible, and monitor your progress!
3. Make exercise your habit
This is another important point that builds on the previous one. While in the beginning, you might take exercise as something new, later it will become a natural part of your life. You will definitely find it easier to maintain a regular exercise habit when it becomes routine for you. In the long run, regular training, and its replacement for any other activity that doesn’t benefit you so much, may even become your positive addiction. 
You may need a little motivation from time to time because your fitness plans will be ruined due to bad weather. In such a case, we recommend you to read our article 5 Tips to Stay Active, Motivated, and Never Stop Exercising Even At Home.
Tips for choosing the right exercise
1. Choose something you will enjoy
One of the reasons why people give up exercising, even though they finally decided to start, they have chosen the wrong type of exercise. That’s why you should find something you will be regularly looking forward to doing. For example, if you started going to the gym, but you only go there because you like your personal trainer, that is not the right motivation, to be honest. Most importantly, you must enjoy exercising! For instance, in the USA, the most popular exercises are brisk walking and also weightlifting at the gym or running. It will probably be similar in your country. 
2. Try various types of exercises
As we have mentioned, especially in the beginning it is important to try and look for what you will enjoy the most. After all, diversity and variety are important in almost every aspect of life, when preparing food, admiring nature, and it is no different when it comes to exercise. In addition to getting rid of stereotypes and monotony, you will also engage more muscle areas, which can help you avoid injury.
For example, according to Rachel Wilson, a physical therapist at Harvard, it is ideal to combine aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, with stretching, weightlifting, and balance exercises. Each type of training will give you joy, and each will have a different effect on your body. Thanks to this, you will work on your overall physical condition, flexibility, but you will also strengthen your muscles and tone your body. 
3. Vary the intensity of your workouts
If you have already chosen what you will do specifically in the exercise, varying the intensity of the workout will help you, especially if you have set a specific goal. For example, if your goal is to prepare for a half-marathon, you should not run the same distance regularly. After a few days and weeks, you will feel better, but the improvement in time will be minimal.
So, why is it important to change the intensity of exercise? Thanks to the principle of varying intensity in a workout, the possibility of injury will be reduced, and you will give your muscles time to recover after a demanding training session. 
Therefore, you will not be surprised by the fact that the principle of changing intensity in training is also fully used by top athletes. So if you treat yourself to more intense training at the upper limit of your heart rate on Monday, be sure to relax on Tuesday or Wednesday. 
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How much time should you devote to exercise?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published an extensive study carried out within several years which shows that more than ¼ of the world’s population does not meet the recommended amount of physical activity while regarding adolescents, it is 80%. In the United States, only 5% of the adult population trains regularly on a daily basis. So what are the recommendations and how much physical activity is enough?
The recommendations of the World Health Organization vary mainly depending on the age group. Children and adolescents aged 5-17 years should do at least:
- 60 minutes of physical aerobic activity every day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity
- at least 3 times a week do more vigorous-intensity aerobic activities to strengthen muscles and bones
- limit sedentary behaviour, such as watching television
Adults aged 18-64 are advised to do at least:
- 150–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity
- or at least 75–150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
At the same time, you can arrange the specified time in any way you desire. At the recommended lower limit, you can exercise, for example, 30 minutes five times a week or 35 to 40 minutes every other day. Studies suggest that splitting training sessions into two or more units while maintaining the mentioned time and intensity can be equally beneficial.
Overall, it is important to start slowly and increase the intensity later, at a higher physical level. You should also bear in mind that the body is not a machine, so it is necessary to let it rest from time to time. Sufficient rest is an important part of the training plan:
- it regenerates the body after exercise
- preventions muscle fatigue
- reduces the risk of injury
- improves performance
- promotes healthy sleep [6-9]
We have mentioned advice and tips on how to start exercising, we already know the minimum time you need to devote to exercise, but also what to consider when choosing the right type of exercise. But what are the effects of regular exercising on human health?
9 important benefits that exercise provides to the body
1. It can prolong your life
Probably the most pleasing benefit of exercise is that it can give us a few extra years of life. Compared to inactive individuals, for whom the only exercise they get is, for example, the journey to get the remote control in the living room, while as little as 90 minutes of exercise per week can increase their life expectancy by up to three years. This is the result of an extensive survey on a sample of more than 400,000 people, who were observed for a relatively long time, on average up to 8 years. And although this survey was conducted by scientists in Taiwan, Harvard experts also agree with them. At the same time, they state that the prolongation of life was more observed especially in the elderly and individuals with high blood pressure.
The most important indicator used by the experts was the so-called cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF). It is an indicator that is related to the ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to the body during a long-term physical activity. The more fit you are thanks to regular and intense exercise, the higher your CRF.  
2. Improves mood
If you have ever tried to do sports after a stressful day at work, you will surely agree with us that you felt better afterward. The emotional elevator took you a few floors higher, and you rested with the feeling that nothing terrible had actually happened during the day. A few minutes of brisk walking are enough, and this physical activity stimulates various chemicals and neurotransmitters in our brain, especially endorphins and dopamine. It is thanks to them that we feel better, happier, and we manage any worries with more peace after the physical performance.
The desire to get the endorphins and dopamine through exercise will drive you forward. If you don’t give up and repeat these rituals more often and more regularly, in the long run, it can finally help you gain more self-esteem and self-confidence because you will meet the goals you had set, and you will see and feel that you are making progress.  
3. Reduces stress and depression
We have already outlined this benefit in the previous point, and it is probably nothing new to you. Exercising is an excellent “weapon” for any mental load, including stress. Psychologists and psychiatrists are often happy to advise their clients that “depression does not like exercise.” The importance of this fact increases with the knowledge that depression is the most frequent mental disorder of people seeking professional help.
Exercise as a remedy for stress or depression is recommended by all experts. Immediately after more intense exercise, the level of cortisol (stress hormone) rises for a while, but it decreases sharply after the activity has ended and can be kept low for the rest of the day. Conversely, after physical activity, you will enjoy increased levels of the already mentioned happiness hormones – endorphins. However, it should be noted that these neurotransmitters are released after reaching a certain minimum intensity and duration. This intensity is usually said to be of at least 65% of maximum oxygen consumption over several minutes.
For efficient endorphin production, it is ideal to incorporate high-intensity interval training, so-called HIIT, into your training plan. Exercise and active movement are generally recommended especially for people with a more stressful profession, such as a senior manager, firefighter, or police officer, etc., but it will provide beneficial anti-stress effects to everyone without exception. To learn more about why stress is dangerous and how to deal with it, read the article Why is Stress Dangerous for Us and How to Reduce It?  
4. Increases energy levels
This may seem like a minor paradox, as we spend energy when exercising, but it has been shown that exercise still helps us feel more energetic and vital. This was also confirmed by a peer-reviewed study in which half of the students with burnout syndrome started running at a lower intensity three times a week for three months, while the other half were passive and didn’t go running. What do you think, which group of students had an increased energy level in the body after a certain time? Of course, it was worth going for a run.
Exercise provides our tissues with oxygen and nutrients and helps the cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when the heart and lungs are healthy, the body has more energy to handle daily activities. 
5. Reduces the risk of heart disease
While a lack of physical activity increases the risk of heart disease, regular exercise reduces it. Why? Exercise strengthens the circulatory system, which becomes more efficient and the heart can pump more blood with less effort. Thanks to exercise, you can also lose weight, eliminate a certain amount of salt and water, and this can have a positive effect on the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic nervous system. Moreover, all of these factors influence lowering blood pressure. Exercise also increases the level of HDL (good) and lowers the level of LDL (bad) cholesterol.
It even increases the chance of a longer life for people who have overcome a heart attack and are recovering with the help of regular exercise. Studies have found that active training may increase maximal cardiac output by more than 20 percent.  
6. Causes an increase of mitochondria
Another great benefit that you will surely appreciate is the increasing number of mitochondria due to exercise. Mitochondria are generally considered to be “power plants of the cell“, which means that sugar and fat are converted or metabolized to vital energy – ATP. Mitochondria are found in all cells, whether muscle, kidney, liver or nerve. Muscles need more energy when exercising, which is why it is a big benefit that their number increases with regular exercise.
At the same time, a simple but important ratio applies, the more mitochondria you have, the more energy in the form of glucose and fatty acids you burn even during rest. And just as importantly, when you train your muscles regularly, not only the number of mitochondria increase but so does their size. Research even suggests that you could actually have up to 50% more mitochondria in your body after six to eight weeks of regular exercise. And that’s worth it, don’t you think?  
7. Improves sleep quality
Do you sometimes have trouble falling asleep? Even in this case, sports can help you, as it has been confirmed by several studies. Exercise contributes to better and longer-lasting sleep, but pay attention to its timing. A training unit a few hours before bedtime may not be suitable for everyone. But if that’s not your case, go for it!  
And if you want to find out how to increase the quality of your sleep we recommend reading the article How to Improve Sleep And How It affects Health And Muscle Growth?
8. Improves brain function
Do you like running? Great! Then you will be pleased with the results of a study that showed that running is positively associated with the growth of cells in the brain area connected with learning and memory.
Moreover, another study suggested that exercise generally increases the activity of a compound called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). This compound helps to improve brain function and communication between cells.
During ageing, regular sports activity can also help prevent cognitive decline, which is one of the reasons why doctors most often recommend it as prevention against Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.  
If you haven’t tried running yet, and you are considering starting with it, read about its main benefits 11 Reasons To Start Running. How Will It Change Your Body?
9. Helps muscle growth (muscle hypertrophy)
You will get this benefit especially in the gym during weightlifting, and thus by doing strength training. Simply put, muscle hypertrophy is nothing more than an increase in the size of an organ or tissue, by enlarging the cells that form it. Depending on your goals, you can focus on one of two types of muscle hypertrophy:
- myofibrillary hypertrophy
- sarcoplasmic hypertrophy
It represents the increase in muscle tissue that occurs by increasing myofibrils. These are protein complexes that represent the functional essence of muscle tissue. Myofibrils produce tension in a particular muscle which produces strength. That is why myofibrillar hypertrophy occurs during strength and speed training.
This type of hypertrophy is the opposite of myofibrillar hypertrophy. In sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, there is an increase in sarcoplasm (a semi-liquid mass between muscle fibres) which increases muscle glycogen storage. Myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy do not exclude each other and a combination of both occurs during exercise. However, it is the type of training that determines which one occurs more and which less. 
These are definitely not all the benefits that regular training provides for the human body. We can also mention, for example, that exercise contributes to slowing down the heart rhythm, lowering blood pressure, helping people with osteoporosis to reduce bone loss, and much more.
What should you remember?
As is the case with everything in life, even exercise, to begin with it is the most difficult step. However, starting to exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body. You will feel better and healthier, which will be packed with another set of great benefits that will improve your life both physically and mentally.
Keep in mind, that all the mentioned benefits of exercise on your body and metabolism are in terms of longevity directly proportional to regular exercise. Studies confirm that the levels of proteins, which dictate to the mitochondria how they should work in your body, decrease during the day, while insulin “memory” returns to its original level within two weeks. So, it takes strict regularity and a strong will, but the results will be definitely worth it! 
Have you started exercising yet? How long have you been doing it and what type of exercise do you prefer? Let us know, and if you liked the article about all the main benefits of exercise for the human body, share it with your friends. Maybe one of them wants to start exercising but needs a little push!
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