Why should I exercise?

Physical activity has a range of health benefits which include:

  • managing your weight
  • increasing energy levels and reducing tiredness
  • reducing the risk of developing certain illnesses (such as cancer and diabetes)

We need to make more time for exercise, as we're much less active in our daily lives than we used to be.

  • In the past, many people were physically active as part of their jobs and/or daily lives. But now many people work in office environments and our homes are filled with energy saving devices.
  • Private car usage in the UK rose by 61% from 1976 to 2001
    Source: Department for Transport (National Travel Survey)
  • The average person in the UK walks 66 miles less than they did 25 years ago
  • Television viewing has doubled since the 1960s
    Source: House of Commons Health Committee – Third Report in Session 2003-04

Man exercising
This sedentary lifestyle contributes to overweight and in the longer term can contribute to poor health.

How do we bring activity back into our daily lives?

We need to seize any opportunity to reduce the amount of time we spend sitting, we need to learn how to bring activity back into our lifestyle.

Click here for further ideas on building activity into your daily lifestyle.
Exercise has many beneficial effects including:
  • weight management
  • strengthening your heart, lungs and bones
  • toning your muscles
  • aiding your sleep patterns
  • boosting energy levels
  • lifting mood and increasing psychological well-being.
Exercise has also been found to reduce the risk for many serious health problems that affect those who are overweight, including:
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression

Physical activity will have these beneficial health effects regardless of your body weight and regardless of the weight loss result if any that you achieve from being active.

How does physical activity reduce body weight?

  1. Being active burns calories, which results into a reduced total daily energy expenditure
  2. Physical activity builds muscles, which take up more energy while at rest

Walking May Improve Your Immunity

A recent US study looked at the effects of a 30-minute walk on a wide range of immune function measures.

They analysed blood samples from healthy volunteers after sitting quietly for 30 minutes and after walking briskly for 30 minutes.

They found that a 30 minute walk led to positive changes in several immune system components. Whereas sitting for 30 minutes was not associated with any such beneficial changes.

This study adds to the existing bulk of evidence to show that moderate activity (activity that raises the heart rate to between 60-65% of its maximum rate) leads to positive immune changes, by increasing the number of immune-system cells in the blood.

The authors suggest that these immune changes may explain why regular moderate exercise is associated with fewer upper respiratory tract infections and consequently, fewer days off due to sickness.

Ref: Nieman et al (2005). Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, Vol 37, No 1. p57-62

Boost your energy levels

Research shows that physical activity can increase energy levels.

It's true- the research shows that regular physical activity gives you more energy.

Read the evidence below from a recent review:


Large scale surveys asked people to report on how active they are, and how often they feel tired.


The more active a person is, the more likely they are to report frequent feelings of energy. Sedentary people experience more feelings of low energy and fatigue.


Experiments have been conducted that either increase or decrease the amount of activity a person does to see how this affects their feelings of energy.

Making People Less Active:

When a group of healthy young men were forced to endure 20 days of bed rest, they reported much higher levels of fatigue and much lower levels of energy than before the experiment.

Making People More Active:

Patients with various fatigue-related medical conditions, who were given between 10-20 weeks of exercise training reported large increases in feelings of energy and vitality, compared to similar patients who didn't receive any exercise.

The Conclusions:

The review came to the following conclusions:

More Activity = Less Fatigue - There is a clear link between doing regular physical activity and feeling more energetic and less tired.

Less is More - The best type of activity to increase feelings of energy is low to moderate intensity activity. More intense athlete style training can actually have the opposite effect on feelings of energy by creating a form of activity burn-out.

Who gains the most - The people who will experience the biggest increases in energy levels from taking regular exercise, are those who are currently sedentary and who already report feeling fatigued.

In other words, the people with the greatest need, will get the most benefit.

Ref: O'Connor & Puetz. (2005) Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 37: pp299-305.

Becoming More Active, Wherever You're Starting From

The short answer to this question is yes. Most importantly, exercise can help keep weight off in the long term. Exercise can help you manage your weight in two ways:

  • It burns calories and contributes to weight loss
  • It helps to raise your metabolic rate

Metabolic Rate

Much of the weight re-gain that people experience after dieting is due to the metabolism slowing down and the loss of muscle that occurs. In general terms – if you lose muscle, your metabolism will slow down. This is why 'quick fix' weight-loss diets are ineffective in the long-term. People who diet without exercising will almost always put all the weight back on; some may even gain extra weight.

Exercise increases your lean muscle mass. Muscle weighs more than fat so it is possible that your weight could actually increase in the short-term following exercise. In which case, do not be disheartened – you need to stop thinking in terms of body weight and start thinking in terms of fitness body composition* which are much more important.

*Body composition is the amount of lean muscle tissue in the body in comparison to the amount of fat.