Medically Approved

Benefits of exercise

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Optum Perks Author

By Optum Perks Author


Why is exercise important?

Regular exercise benefits your physical and mental health. By maintaining an active lifestyle, you give yourself a much better chance of:

  • managing your weight
  • preventing certain health conditions and diseases
  • improving your mood
  • increasing energy levels
  • sleeping better

Exercise to manage your weight & fitness

Physical activity causes your body to burn more calories, which can help prevent weight gain and maintain weight loss. While more intense exertion burns more calories, finding a way to incorporate exercise into your daily routine may be a better approach if you’re just starting out.


If your doctor’s advice is to “exercise more,” you might feel pressure to sign up for a gym membership or an exercise class, but that can cause you to take on too much too soon and burn out.

Finding ways to be more active in your daily routine is key to consistency – taking the stairs instead of the elevator, meeting a friend for a walk instead of a meal or a drink, or doing your household chores with a little more gusto.

Once you start to notice how much better you feel and look, you’ll be more inclined to increase the level of exertion – convinced of the positive effects and benefits.

Exercise to fight illness & disease

The advice from your doctor to exercise is often a reaction to certain indicators of poor health, such as weight, blood pressure, or cholesterol and blood sugar levels.


An important part of combating these symptoms and lowering your chance of disease or health conditions is exercise.

Being active is proven to boost the good kind of cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) and lower unhealthy triglycerides. In turn, this reversal improves blood flow and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.

If you’re prediabetic or have a family history of type 2 diabetes, exercising can increase the insulin sensitivity of your cells and help control blood sugar levels.

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Exercise to get in a good mood

Equally as important and beneficial as the physical effects of exercise are the mental and psychological effects. The sense of well-being and achievement you feel after an activity lifts your mood and, importantly, keeps you wanting more.


That positive feeling is a reaction in the brain – activity stimulates chemicals that cause you to feel happy and relaxed. There’s also the boost to your confidence and self-esteem when you start to notice that you look and feel better.

Research also shows that exercise can help alleviate long-term depression and anxiety disorders. That feel-good factor has led doctors to prescribe exercise in the same way they prescribe antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication.

One important tip to take away is that exercise and activity is most important when you’re feeling down or reluctant to get out and move around. Going for a walk or a run is the ideal antidote to a stressful day, whereas sitting on the couch will do nothing for your mood. Remember that feeling of well-being and go after it.

Exercise for energy

The positive physical and mental effects that come from exercise extend to many parts of your life and daily routine. Things that once seemed difficult – your commute to work or putting out the trash – become easier.


Your improved cardiovascular health, muscle development and sunnier outlook help you complete these tasks with greater ease and leave you with more time to enjoy the day.

Exercise for a better night’s sleep

A good night’s sleep is good for the brain. What’s often standing in the way of a good night’s sleep is the ability to fall asleep, which can come down to poor cardiovascular health, difficulty relaxing, stress, or an inconsistent sleep schedule.


When you choose to exercise or to be more active, you address these physical and mental obstacles. Your body recognizes when it’s time to power down and when it’s time to wake back up.

Naturally, the better night’s sleep increases your energy levels and cognitive function, helping you stay active and alert. The benefits are cyclical and encourage you to foster healthy habits, knowing you’ll reap the rewards.