Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity

You know exercise is good for you, but do you know how good? From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, find out how exercise can improve your life.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Want to feel better, have more energy and even add years to your life? Just exercise.

The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore. Everyone benefits from exercise, regardless of age, sex or physical ability.

Need more convincing to get moving? Check out these seven ways that exercise can lead to a happier, healthier you.

1. Exercise controls weight

Exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn.

Regular trips to the gym are great, but don't worry if you can't find a large chunk of time to exercise every day. Any amount of activity is better than none at all. To reap the benefits of exercise, just get more active throughout your day — take the stairs instead of the elevator or rev up your household chores. Consistency is key.

2. Exercise combats health conditions and diseases

Worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent high blood pressure? No matter what your current weight is, being active boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol, and it decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Regular exercise helps prevent or manage many health problems and concerns, including:

  • Stroke
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Many types of cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Falls

It can also help improve cognitive function and helps lower the risk of death from all causes.

3. Exercise improves mood

Need an emotional lift? Or need to destress after a stressful day? A gym session or brisk walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier, more relaxed and less anxious.

You may also feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem.

4. Exercise boosts energy

Winded by grocery shopping or household chores? Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance.

Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lung health improve, you have more energy to tackle daily chores.

5. Exercise promotes better sleep

Struggling to snooze? Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster, get better sleep and deepen your sleep. Just don't exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to go to sleep.

6. Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life

Do you feel too tired or too out of shape to enjoy physical intimacy? Regular physical activity can improve energy levels and increase your confidence about your physical appearance, which may boost your sex life.

But there's even more to it than that. Regular physical activity may enhance arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don't exercise.

7. Exercise can be fun … and social!

Exercise and physical activity can be enjoyable. They give you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting.

So take a dance class, hit the hiking trails or join a soccer team. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. Bored? Try something new, or do something with friends or family.

The bottom line on exercise

Exercise and physical activity are great ways to feel better, boost your health and have fun. For most healthy adults, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends these exercise guidelines:

  • Aerobic activity. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. The guidelines suggest that you spread out this exercise during the course of a week. To provide even greater health benefit and to assist with weight loss or maintaining weight loss, at least 300 minutes a week is recommended. But even small amounts of physical activity are helpful. Being active for short periods of time throughout the day can add up to provide health benefit.
  • Strength training. Do strength training exercises for all major muscle groups at least two times a week. Aim to do a single set of each exercise using a weight or resistance level heavy enough to tire your muscles after about 12 to 15 repetitions.

Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, biking, swimming and mowing the lawn. Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, heavy yardwork and aerobic dancing. Strength training can include use of weight machines, your own body weight, heavy bags, resistance tubing or resistance paddles in the water, or activities such as rock climbing.

If you want to lose weight, meet specific fitness goals or get even more benefits, you may need to ramp up your moderate aerobic activity even more.

Remember to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any concerns about your fitness, haven't exercised for a long time, have chronic health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes or arthritis.

From Mayo Clinic to your inbox

Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Oct. 08, 2021 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Slide show: 5 smart exercise choices for psoriatic arthritis
  2. Accentuate the positive to make lasting health changes
  3. An appointment to exercise? You bet!
  4. Are you ready for a workout?
  5. Blood Doping
  6. Boot camp workout
  7. Can I exercise if I have atopic dermatitis?
  8. Core exercises
  9. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  10. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  11. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  12. Dress smart for winter workouts
  13. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  14. Exercise and chronic disease
  15. Exercise and illness
  16. Stress relief
  17. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  18. Exercising with arthritis
  19. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  20. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  21. Fitness program
  22. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  23. Fitness motivation
  24. Fitness ball exercises videos
  25. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  26. Fitness program
  27. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  28. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  29. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  30. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  31. Fitness training routine
  32. Getting in shape after having a baby
  33. Going up? Take the stairs
  34. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  35. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  36. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  37. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  38. Heart rate
  39. Hockey Flywheel
  40. How fit are you?
  41. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  42. Keep your workout fun
  43. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  44. Marathon and the Heat
  45. BMI and waist circumference calculator
  46. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  47. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  48. Need a gym to get fit?
  49. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  50. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  51. No pain, no gain? No way!
  52. No time for exercise? No way!
  53. Overuse injury prevention
  54. Pregnancy and exercise
  55. Core-strength exercises
  56. Guide to stretches
  57. Balance exercises
  58. Fitness ball
  59. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  60. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  61. Strength training: How-to video collection
  62. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  63. Too sick to exercise?
  64. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  65. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  66. Cold-weather exercise
  67. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  68. Working out? Remember to drink up
  69. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!