Benefits of Physical Activity

Often we look at exercise as a tool for weight loss. This in return can discourage people from exercising or from continuing to exercise consistently after seeing a lack of results. However, it should really be looked at as a tool for wellness. Yes, it is true that exercise can help promote weight loss. However, for weight loss often exercise alone isn’t sufficient without at least some dietary modification or dietary monitoring.
Benefits of Exercise

Let’s pause for a minute to look over some of the general guidelines or recommendations for physical activity:

  • The American College of Sports Medicine states that at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity (or 75 minutes of intense physical activity) per week plus at least 2 days of strength training is recommended to promote health and reduce risk of chronic disease.
  • Additional benefits are gained when more than 300 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is performed.

Some consensus on the amount of recommended exercise include:

  • Moderate physical activity time of 150 to 250 minutes per week for the prevention of weight gain
  • Moderate physical activity time of 200 to 300 minutes per week for the prevention of weight regain, or in other words for long-term weight control
  • Moderate physical activity of 225-420 minutes/week can help promote weight loss

As you can see from these numbers, one has to put in lot of minutes to get weight loss solely from exercise. Even after that, the achieved weight loss alone is not close to what can be achieved with a combination of physical activity and dietary modification. Studies show that without any dietary intervention, aerobic exercise programs lead up to 2-3% weight loss from initial body weight, whereas aerobic exercise combined with dietary intervention results in 8-11% weight loss. So, it can be said that around 75-80% of weight loss comes from dietary changes, not exercise. On the other hand, exercise alone can be an effective and often necessary tool to help prevent weight gain or keep off the lost weight. Therefore, by preventing weight gain it alone can provide many benefits.

What I want to emphasize in this blog is to look at exercise as a wellness tool. If you view it as a part of a lifestyle to get and stay healthy, that will allow you to exercise for a long time to come. Exercise independently has so many health benefits. Therefore, if we look at exercise with the different perspective of providing our body with all the benefits, it would encourage us to do it more often and more consistently.

Health benefits of physical activity – where do we start?

Let’s start with the heart:

    • Increases heart’s ability to pump more blood
    • Makes arteries less stiff (more compliant),
    • Allows the blood from the heart to be distributed to rest of your body more effectively
    • Lowers blood pressure
    • Decreases cardiovascular disease in general

Metabolic benefits:

    • Increases our good cholesterol (high density lipids, or HDL)
    • Decreases triglycerides
    • Helps our body dispose of glucose more effectively
    • Increases insulin sensitivity
    • Decreases hgA1c (the average level of one’s blood sugar over 3 months)
    • Helps reduce the visceral fat
    • Decreases the size of fat cells
    • Helps with weight loss and maintenance
    • Helps prevent muscle loss during weight loss

Musculoskeletal benefits:

    • Do you have arthritis? It helps increase strength, range of motion.
    • It reduces the risk of falls and injuries in the elderly.

Decreased risk of cancer:

    • including breast, lung, throat, stomach, kidney, and colon cancers.
    • It promotes healthy regeneration of cells.

Mental health benefits:

    • Did you know exercise may be as effective as an antidepressant medication in treatment of major depression? One study showed it reduced depressive symptoms by 30-50%.
    • It improves cognitive function and helps slow cognitive decline.

It helps reduce most if not all of obesity-related health complications and decreases inflammatory markers in our body.

We are not even touching on the effects of inactivity— a major contributor to many chronic diseases. That’s a whole blog for another day.

Do we have a pill that can single handedly achieve all of the above benefits? At least not that I have read about. So, let’s strap this wellness tool to our belt!


Take care,

Efe Sahinoglu, MD


note: some existing medical conditions may require clearance before starting an exercise program. Please see your primary care physician before starting an exercise program.

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