7 Ways Exercise Boosts Your Overall Health and Wellness

Wellness is a vital component for living an active, healthy, and enjoyable life. You can create a healthy lifestyle by incorporating exercise, nutrition, and supplements into your daily routine. Does this mean that you will no longer be able to enjoy a day off from the gym, eating your favorite dessert, or having a glass of wine with friends? Not at all!

The key to sustainable wellness is balance. Your wellness journey is not all or nothing, and the first step to creating balance is to let that counterproductive mentality go. You will have many days where your healthy eating choices and invigorating activity are ideal, and others where it isn’t. When you have a balanced approach to wellness, it takes the guesswork out of living a healthy lifestyle and puts the joy back into moving and eating for optimal wellness.

What Type of Activity Is Considered Exercise?

7 Ways Exercise Boosts Your Overall Health and Wellness | Naturopathic Dr

So, what type of activity is considered exercise? The short answer is any physical activity that contracts your muscles with the intention of acquiring fitness or other health benefits. There are many categories of exercise that provide different benefits. The National Institutes of Health define four main types:

Endurance

Endurance activities, also called aerobic or cardio exercise, uses large muscle groups to increase heart rate, respiration, and the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body. Examples include running, brisk walking, interval training, swimming, cross-country skiing, or cycling.

Strength

Strength training focuses on building muscle and, like the name suggests, improving muscle strength, with exercises like lifting weights, doing core workouts, or resistance training.

Balance

Balance exercises like Tai Chi are designed to help improve stability and prevent falls.

Flexibility

Flexibility exercises like yoga, Pilates, or stretching ensure the joints move as designed to support daily activities.

Regularly getting a healthy blend of all four types will help ensure your body stays healthy for decades to come.

How Much Exercise Do You Need?

No matter which category of exercise you choose, three factors determine the maximum effectiveness and safety. Frequency, intensity, and duration combine to provide maximum results for any workout. Here’s an example that showcases what you need to know:

  • While walking is a form of exercise, simply traveling from room to room around the house isn’t because it doesn’t require additional effort to accomplish.
  • When you focus your walking to include hills, extend the distance over time, or other factors to increase the intensity or difficulty, then it becomes exercise.


The Mayo Clinic recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week (or a combination of each), but you can see the benefits of exercise by working out as little as 10 minutes a day, five days per week.  Starting with just this amount will boost your confidence and drive, giving you a sense of accomplishment that can lead to a desire to do more.

7 Ways Exercise Can Improve Your Health & Wellness 

7 Ways Exercise Boosts Your Overall Health and Wellness | Naturopathic Dr

Regular exercise is one of the most impactful ways to boost your health and wellness. Physical activity affects so many aspects of your mental health and physical fitness level, providing benefits such as:

1. Managing Bodyweight

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that obesity rates have increased dramatically in the last few years, making weight loss and the maintenance of a healthy weight through nutrition and regular exercise a primary focus. Exercise can help keep you at a healthy body weight by increasing metabolism and lean body mass, as well as number of calories you burn every day.

2. Improving Cardiovascular Health

According to studies from Johns Hopkins Medicine, exercise and physical fitness regimens can slow the heartbeat and lowers blood pressure, reducing your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Hypertension increases your risk of heart attack significantly.

3. Preventing Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome involves several conditions existing simultaneously, such as hypertension and blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol and triglyceride levels. These conditions cause an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels that raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. Research from Johns Hopkins shows that regular exercise including brisk physical activity like cycling, walking, or swimming reduces the risk of diabetes by more than 50%. 

4. Improving Sleep

Exercise can improve sleep duration and enhance sleep quality. Brisk physical activity and exertion expend surplus energy, helping you to fall asleep easier. It can also reset the sleep/wake cycle through the increase and gradual decrease in body temperature. Sleep is critical for self-care, too, letting you rest, restore, and reenergize to improve your mood, memory, and performance.

5. Enhancing Productivity

Exercise has been shown to improve productivity. A Harvard Business Review study shows exercise improves cognitive abilities that contribute to productivity, such as:

  • Faster learning
  • Enhanced creativity
  • Improved concentration
  • Sharper memory
  • Prolonged mental stamina


All of these can increase your ability to perform at work as well as throughout your daily life.

6. Boosting Immunity

Exercise and physical activity increase blood flow that enables the body to flush out toxins, including bacteria that thrive in the lungs and airways. Physical activity allows antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more efficiently, allowing for a more rapid response to contaminants.

7. Reducing Stress

Stress is very destructive to your physical and mental health, but exercise reduces stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. The production of endorphins that work as natural painkillers and mood boosters are also increased with an exercise routine. A regular exercise program can help prevent some of the mental health challenges that can result from long-term, persistent stress.

Boost Wellness, Health, and Fitness With Exercise

7 Ways Exercise Boosts Your Overall Health and Wellness | Naturopathic Dr

Recent research from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that only one-third of adults get the recommended amount of physical activity each week, and that more 80% do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. Lack of adequate exercise can have a significant impact on the incidence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, stress, and issues with immunity, among many other health concerns.

Regardless of the type of activity you choose, factors like frequency, intensity, and duration should be considered to reap the optimal benefits of exercise. Contact Dr. Karen Threlkel today to speak with an expert about any questions you might have about how exercise impacts overall health and wellness.

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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