Health Benefits of Physical Activity

Increasing your level of physical activity helps prevent chronic diseases so you live longer and enjoy greater quality of life. Here are some of the ways regular physical activity improves your health:

  • Reduces the amount of fat stored in your body.
  • Improves weight control.
  • Increases good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins or HDLs).
  • Decreases bad cholesterol (low-density lipoproteins or LDLs).
  • Improves blood glucose balance and your body’s ability to use insulin.
  • Reduces blood pressure.
  • Improves heart function and blood flow.
  • Improves psychological well-being (less stress, anxiety and depression).

Recommended Amount of Physical Activity

Walking for at least 30 minutes a day is recommended. The biggest health improvements are seen by people who become active after having been inactive for a while. Even increasing your level of activity a little bit will improve your health.

Physical Activity and Chronic Disease

Physical activity can help prevent, reduce, or reverse the effects of many chronic diseases. Chronic diseases include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, and osteoporosis.

Here are examples of how physical activity can improve your health:

  • Aerobic fitness helps the heart, lungs and blood vessels function better so cardiovascular disease can be reduced or reversed. This can help lead to a longer life.
  • Aerobic and resistance exercises can help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes. Combine that with even a small amount of weight loss from diet, and diabetes can be reduced in high-risk people by 40 to 60% over a 3 to 4 year period. If you already have diabetes, activity is an effective way to manage your condition.
  • Regular physical activity helps reduce the chances of getting colon and breast cancers. Active people are 30 to 40% less likely to get colon cancer and 20 to 30% less likely to get breast cancer, compared to people who are inactive. If you already have cancer, regular activity helps increase your overall health, quality of life, and how long you’re likely to live.
  • Regular weight-bearing activity is important for keeping your bones healthy and improving bone density. Physical fitness also reduces the risk and number of falls and fractures.

One way to know how much activity is right for you is to follow the Health Canada Physical Activity Guidelines.

Last Reviewed: November, 2016


© 2016 Province of British Columbia. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a health professional. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.

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