The overall benefit of being active and fit is an improved quality of life—being able to do things you enjoy for longer periods of time (for example, playing with the kids, gardening, dancing, or walking).
Research repeatedly shows that fitness is a strong measure of health. In a study of more than 25,000 volunteers, researchers at the Cooper Clinic found that a person's fitness level was more important than body weight. Men in the study who were overweight or obese but who were physically fit had a lower risk of death than men who were a healthy weight but were not physically fit.
Being fit improves your overall health and reduces your risk of disease.
Short-term benefits include:
-A healthier heart. Physical activity makes demands on your heart that make it stronger and better able to function.
-Healthy muscles, bones, and joints. Resistance training such as weight lifting improves muscular strength and endurance and increases bone density, which is especially important for older adults to prevent falls and injuries.
-Increased burning of calories. Physical activity burns calories and helps you achieve a healthy balance between the calories you take in from food and those you expend. (To find out how many calories are burned during different activities, see the activity calorie calculator.) When you exercise regularly, your body burns more calories, both during activity and at rest. Being fit may also lower your percentage of body fat and increase muscle strength and tone. Your percentage of body fat depends on genetics, lifestyle, and physical activities. No matter what your size or shape, physical activity has important health benefits, including:
o Better ability to cope with stress. People who are fit have less anxiety, depression, and stress than people who aren't active.
o Improved ability to fall asleep and sleep well.
o Increased energy.
o Increased mental acuity—sharper and faster thinking.
Long-term benefits include reduced risk of:
• Dying early.
• Developing coronary artery disease. Men who are not active have about twice the risk of developing heart disease as men who are regularly physically active.
• Having a second heart attack. Also, people who get regular physical activity as part of a cardiac rehabilitation program have a lower risk of dying from a heart attack.
• Developing high blood pressure. Regular physical activity can also lower blood pressure in those who have high blood pressure.
• Developing type 2 diabetes. Physical activity may prevent type 2 diabetes through its effect on insulin, how the body processes sugar, and maintenance of body weight.
• Developing colon and other cancers.
• Becoming obese.
Note: Most people should talk to a health professional first before beginning a regular exercise program, especially those who have conditions such as coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, heart valve disease, or diabetes. If you are at risk for or have some of these conditions, your health professional may want to help you build a plan matched to your needs. He or she may want to do tests before you start a plan or want you to be more careful and watch for injuries or other problem