Physical Activity Benefits

Understanding physical activity

World Health Organization describes the physical activity as a body movement that is done by our skeletal muscles that require an outflow of energy. Physical activity includes all movement during relaxation and fun time, travelling to and from places, and during all kinds of work. These activities are done at either moderate intensity or vigorously to help improve our health.1

What are the physical activities

Physical activity includes any movement that you do throughout the day excluding sitting or lying down still. For example, walking to class or work, climbing the stairs, and even cleaning your house are considered physical activities. 

Other types of physical activity include aerobic, muscle and bone reinforcement activities, balancing and flexibility activities such as, walking, jogging, cycling, playing sports, and involving in active recreational activities.

Exercise is another type of physical activity that is scheduled, organized, and done repeatedly to improve physical health. According to NHS, it is recommended for adults do aerobic and strengthening exercises every week to improve their health outcomes. 

There are various other benefits of physical activity which we will discuss in this article later on. 

Importance of physical activity

Physical activity is important to enhance the functioning of our body organs therefore regular physical activity is one of the vital things we can do to improve our health. Being physically active can help us elevate our brain health, maintain good body weight, reduce and manage the risk of non-communicable diseases, help our bones and muscles to be strong, and improves our abilities to function effectively every day.2

Many studies identified the direct relationship between regular physical activity and the prevention of various long-lasting diseases. It is concluded from the studies that physically active people are at the smallest risk of developing diseases. However, the maximum improvements are observed among those people who are least fit and become physically active. Researchers also found that people who are engaged in physical activities more than the recommendations are likely to get further health benefits.3

Physical activities can benefit everyone regardless of their age, abilities, body shape, and size. It is only suggested to be consistent and monitor the improvements frequently.

Benefits you can get from physical activities

Brain health

Physical activity of any intensity (moderate or vigorous) can immediately impact our mental health. Children aged 6-13 years old are benefitted from improved thinking and understanding abilities after performing regular physical activities. On the other hand, adults experience a reduction in feelings of anxiety and distress.2

Regular exercise assists in reducing anxiety, depression, and mood instability and enhances our self-esteem and cognitive function which is why it is essential for maintaining our mental health. Moreover, exercise is also found to be helpful for patients with Schizophrenia who are at the highest risk of developing obesity and weight gain because of their antipsychotic medications. A study conducted on schizophrenic patients identified that they had a significant positive impact on their healthy weight management, reduced blood pressure levels, boosted energy levels, and increased body strength.4

Other benefits of physical activity in terms of mental health are:

  • Improved sleeping pattern
  • Increased brain alertness
  • Increased sexual desires
  • Better strength and survival states
  • Relieved stress
  • Improvement in mood
  • Elevated energy and stamina
  • Reduced cholesterol levels and improved heart fitness.4

Heart health

According to American Heart Association even if people have multiple risk factors for heart diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels, they are at the lowest risk for death if they are physically active and relish regular physical activities. Furthermore, physically healthy people may live longer and are less likely to get heart attacks than people who are not physically active and pre-diagnosed with heart conditions.5

Physical activity greatly impacts people with hypertension as it helps in the reduction of blood pressure. This reduction of blood pressure when associated with regular physical activity lowers the risks of coronary heart disease by 4-5%. Certain activities like aerobic exercises are a positive therapy for the management of cardiovascular and respiratory problems in people with disabilities and chronic health states.6

Exercising regularly with any intensity can strengthen our heart muscles and makes them capable of performing their pumping function effectively. As a result, more blood is transferred to our vital organs and muscle mass which eventually increases the oxygen levels in our body. Thus it gets easier for tiny blood vessels to carry waste products out of the body. 

Therefore, a sedentary lifestyle is harmful to our heart health and may lead to heart attacks. It is recommended to have a regular exercise routine to prevent heart attacks, other heart diseases, and further complications. 

Diabetes mellitus

Physical activity has been found to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 47-58% in high-risk patients with multiple co-morbidities.7 Exercise assists the function of insulin to maintain blood glucose levels in the body by boosting your body's sensitivity to insulin and counteracting insulin resistance. Thus, both physical activity and other lifestyle changes can show significant results in diabetes prevention and management.8

Many studies highlight these other benefits of regular exercise on diabetes patients as mentioned below:

1.   Exercise of all forms (aerobic, resistance, or combined) helps in lowering the HBA1C values in patients with diabetes who are on other medication management as well.

2.  Aerobic and resistance exercises together help in reducing insulin resistance in people with sedentary lifestyles. 

3.  People with diabetes who are physically active are less likely to have mortalities due to heart disease. 

4.  Women with diabetes who a physically active and exercise for at least 4 hours are week are 40% less likely to develop cardiovascular problems.8

Generally, it is recommended for DM patients to exercise daily for 1-3 hours after eating meals when their blood sugar level is maintained. However, there are certain risks associated with exercise for diabetes patients. Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia are the complications of vigorous physical activity in DM patients. It is recommended to test your blood sugar level before exercising, and if it's below 100mg/dl, you should have a piece of fruit or a small snack to avoid drastic drops in blood glucose levels. Simultaneously, if the sugar levels are higher (250mg/dl), it is advised to have caution and seek expert help.8

Weight management 

Physical activity affects our body weight. Along with restricted calorie intake, it is advisable to regularly perform physical activities to manage healthy body weight. Exercise is a long-term process, and it gradually attenuates weight gain over a while. It requires consistency and regular record keeping of our weight.

Physical activity helps the body burn off energy in the form of calories. This burning of calories along with lower calorie intake through our meals creates a calorie deficit which helps in losing body fat and maintenance of body weight.9 Moreover, reduced body weight cutbacks the risks of developing diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases as well. 

Risks you can get from physical activities 

Like most interventions, regular exercise also holds some risks associated with it which is why it is suggested to always perform physical activities under supervision or after expert advice. Some of the risks connected with physical activities include

  • Cardiac risk: As discussed earlier, regular physical activity is beneficial for people with cardiovascular problems however there are chances for patients with compromised heart health to develop any unusual cardiac events during exercise. It is guided to consult medical practitioners before starting any exercise program and before increasing the intensity. 
  • Injury to muscles, bones, or joints is a common condition observed with exercise. If you have any prior musculoskeletal problems, it is advisable to perform physical activities under the supervision of physical therapists.10

There are many public health programs, coaching, and instructions given out by hospitals and other health organizations regarding the disease-related recommended exercise regimens. It is beneficial to gain extensive knowledge before signing up for any physical activity program. 

Recommended hours for physical activities

WHO provides guidelines on how much physical activity is recommended for different age groups and particular populations. 

  • Children and adolescents (5-17 years): They should at least be involved in an average of 1 hour of exercise per day. This should include aerobic exercise and other physical activities. It is suggested to include bone and muscle strengthening exercises in the routine as well. Limiting sedentary lifestyle and screen time is advocated.1
  • Adult ages 18-64 years: 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activities are recommended throughout the week for this age group. Avoid being inactive by adding any less forceful exercises to your routine.1
  • Adults aged 65 years and above: Older adults should perform the same exercises as middle-aged adults only adding certain functional balance activities and strengthening exercises for 3 days or more a week. This is important to boost functional abilities and prevent falls.1
  • People with chronic health conditions (Hypertension, Diabetes, cardiac problems, cancer survivors, and HIV patients): Aerobic physical activities of 2.5-5 hours a week at a moderate level and 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous exercises per week are guided. Regular health checkups are recommended along with expert consultation when unusual signs or symptoms are observed.1


It is concluded that physical activities are beneficial for human health and must be included in our routine to prevent and maintain many health deteriorating conditions. However, it is advisable to seek expert consultation and assistance before starting any activity to avoid future complications. Physical activities when done according to the recommendation or more than that give fruitful results. It is essential to grasp benefits from awareness programs, articles, and instructions to plan a healthy lifestyle and better future.


  1. Physical activity [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from:
  2. CDC. Benefits of physical activity [Internet]. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2022 [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from:
  3. Warburton DER, Nicol CW, Bredin SSD. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ [Internet]. 2006 Mar 14 [cited 2022 Nov 11];174(6):801–9. Available from:
  4. Sharma A, Madaan V, Petty FD. Exercise for mental health. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry [Internet]. 2006 [cited 2022 Nov 11];8(2):106. Available from:
  5. What’s the link between physical activity and health? [Internet]. [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from:
  6. Piercy KL, Troiano RP. Physical activity guidelines for americans from the us department of health and human services. Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes [Internet]. 2018 Nov [cited 2022 Nov 11];11(11):e005263. Available from:
  7. Lumb A. Diabetes and exercise. Clin Med (Lond) [Internet]. 2014 Dec [cited 2022 Nov 11];14(6):673–6. Available from:
  8. The importance of exercise when you have diabetes [Internet]. Harvard Health. 2018 [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from:
  9. Cox CE. Role of physical activity for weight loss and weight maintenance. Diabetes Spectr [Internet]. 2017 Aug [cited 2022 Nov 11];30(3):157–60. Available from:
  10. Understanding the risks and benefits of physical activity is important in public health [Internet]. Human Kinetics. [cited 2022 Nov 11]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Amira Samnani

Bachelor of Science in Nursing- The Aga Khan University Hospital, Pakistan

Amira is a Registered Nurse with demonstrated clinical experience of working in health care industry. She has a 4 years of experience as a practicing nurse in Internal Medicine-Adult care unit. She is proficient in her knowledge about health education and promotion. Currently, she is seeking roles in her field while continuing her education to become health and wellness expert.

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