We all know that regular exercise is good for you. From relieving tension and stress through to preventing illnesses, here are some of the well-known and lesser-well-known health benefits of exercise.

The well known health benefits that regular exercise can bring:

  • Reduces or maintains body weight or body fat - Burning calories from exercise can help you lose weight and tone your body.
  • Relieves tension and stress, as well as depression and anxiety - Endorphins released from the brain during exercise can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
  • Reduces the risk of developing heart disease - Exercise improves circulation, blood flow and lowers your resting heart rate, thus resulting in an overall stronger heart muscle.
  • Reduces high blood pressure, or the risk of developing high blood pressure - The reduction of body fat through exercise and the strengthening of the heart muscle lowers blood pressure.
  • Boosts self-image and improves psychological well-being - Exercise can help you look and feel better and studies have shown that exercise is one of the best medicines for your mental wellbeing.
  • Reduces the risk of developing breast cancer - Research has shown that exercise could cut chances of developing breast cancer by 30-40 per cent.
  • Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer - Studies have also suggested that those who exercise regularly could cut their chances of developing colon cancer by 20 per cent.
  • Builds and maintains: bones, joints and muscles - Weight bearing exercise is a great way to strengthen bones, joints and muscles.
  • Improves flexibility - Exercise helps to improve your day to day mobility, reduces joint pain, improves posture and lowers injury risk.
  • Improves sleep and relieves insomnia - According to the US National Sleep Foundation, daytime physical activity can help you to fall asleep more quickly and get better quality sleep. Regular exercise can also help sufferers of insomnia. And, contrary to popular belief, research from the University of California suggests that even late evening workouts won’t hamper your ability to get to sleep.
  • Reduces high cholesterol or the risk of developing high cholesterol - Through regular exercise, your body fat percentage will reduce and as a result, so will high cholesterol levels.
  • Helps prevent diabetes - Exercise can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, reduce body fat and lower blood insulin levels - all of which are linked with diabetes.

And some of the top exercise benefits you may be unaware of...

  • Better hearing - A study at Miami University found that cardiovascular training improves your hearing in the short term and helps to preserve it in the long term. Other studies have found that the least fit people tend to have the worst hearing – and that’s even taking into account the number of exercisers blasting music into their ears…
  • More creativity - Research from Rhode Island College suggests that aerobic exercise can kick-start your creativity – and keep your brain cells tingling for a couple of hours afterwards. Activities that are ‘no-brainers’ and don’t require you to put in too much thought are best – so pick running or swimming over rock climbing or doubles tennis. Also, don’t go too hard, as the best creativity boost comes from exercising at a comfortable pace.
  • Higher libido - Yes, being fit helps to improve your sex life! A study that looked at 8,000 women aged 18 to 49, found that in women who exercise three times a week, 40 per cent reported greater arousal, 31 per cent had sex more often and 25 per cent found orgasm easier to achieve. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health involving 31,000 men, also found that men who are physically active have a 30 per cent lower risk of erectile dysfunction than men who do little or no physical activity.
  • Better quitting power - If you are trying to kick your smoking habit, research suggests that exercise might help. A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine followed 281 sedentary female smokers, who were otherwise healthy, in their efforts to quit. The study found that smokers who take part in assigned exercise sessions are twice as likely to quit and stay cigarette free compared to those who don’t do any exercise.
  • More regularity - Yes, we’re talking about how regularly you go to the bathroom here! An Australian study found that regular exercisers are less likely to suffer from constipation than sedentary people. The boost to your circulation – as well as the actual physical effects of movement – are thought to be the reason for this. There is even a link between high levels of fitness and low levels of bowel cancer – though this may be because fit people are more likely to eat healthily, too.
  • Better focus - The very fact that exercise requires planning, application, dedication and discipline means that every time you get your kit on, you are working on your character development too. For example, a study of people training for a marathon in New York found that regular exercise improves people’s goal-setting, organisation and discipline – both at work and in other areas of life.