Getting Started

Improved fitness improves your life expectancy back to top
Prevent osteoporosis

Weight-bearing physical activity helps prevent bone loss and can encourage bone growth. People who are physically active are less likely to get osteoporosis, provided they have an adequate diet that includes calcium and vitamin D. Physical activity also can help build thicker cartilage and stronger tendons and ligaments, all keys to keeping mobile and feeling good.

Decrease your risk of coronary heart disease
Physical activity can cause the following changes in your body that reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke.
Thins your blood in a beneficial way
Increases production of red blood cells, so oxygen is delivered more efficiently
Alters your clotting mechanism to reduce the risk of blocked blood vessels

Lower blood pressure
Did you know that overweight people who exercise can lower their blood pressure even if they don’t lose weight? That’s because physical activity lowers heart rate and increases the amount of capillaries in muscles, which lowers blood pressure. Physical activity may also reduce stress, which can have a negative effect on your high blood pressure.

Note: If you have high blood pressure that requires the use of medication, talk to your doctor before increasing your physical activity.

Improve your cholesterol
Physical activity may lower your cholesterol levels. However, even if it doesn’t, it can improve your ratio of the good cholesterol, which is called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, to the bad cholesterol, known as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

HDL carry fats from your body cells to your liver; LDL carry fats made in your liver to body tissues to be deposited there. It is not good for your heart or arteries if too much of your cholesterol is carried in LDL. It’s good to have 25% or more of your cholesterol in HDL, which actually picks up and removes cholesterol from the arteries. While it takes aerobic activity to raise the amount of HDL in your blood, it only takes moderate amounts of physical activity to lower your total cholesterol and LDL.

Lose and maintain weight
If we eat the same amount of calories that our bodies use, we’ll maintain our weight. However, we gain body fat when our dietary intake exceeds the amount that our body uses. For every 3,500 extra calories, we’ll gain 1 pound. Conversely, over a period of time, we need to cumulatively take in fewer calories than our bodies needs to lose weight. Gradually increasing the amount of physical activity in our daily routine while cutting back on the amount of calories we eat will help us lose weight. Making small increases in your daily physical activity can really add up to significant health benefits. For instance, burning an extra 200 calories/day could result in a weight loss of 20 pounds/year.

Physical activity helps build muscle and helps people maintain their muscle mass while losing weight. Otherwise, some muscle is invariably lost with fat during weight loss.

And finally, physical activity is important for maintaining weight. People who are physically active most days of the week are much more likely to maintain their weight loss. Check out these statistics:

Increase your metabolism
Your body burns calories doing activities that you have no control of, such as sleeping. The amount of calories your body burns is controlled by your metabolism. Technically speaking, being physically active generally does not increase your metabolism by a significant amount.

However, what most people mean by metabolism is “calorie burning.” And physical activity does significantly increase the amount of calories you burn throughout the day. The more you do, the more calories you burn. Furthermore, as you increase your muscle mass, which is a natural result of physical activity, the amount of calories your muscles use will increase. That’s why adding more physical activity to your daily routine is the most effective way to increase the number of calories you burn, as illustrated by the following graph.