The long term effects of regular exercise

Exercise has many short term benefits, it boosts energy, it delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and it helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. But can exercise help you in the long term?

There’s strong scientific research that regular exercise can improve quality of life. People who exercise regularly have a lower risk of developing many long term conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. This is because exercise keeps the heart strong, and has a variety of benefits that help your body stay healthy. Cardiovascular exercise improves blood circulation in the body, which reduces risk of developing blood clots or blockages. Furthermore, the heart is a muscle, so regular exercise helps keep it toned and strong.

Exercise also improves mental health. Exercise reduces stress and anxiety, and can also boost self-esteem and mood. Regular exercise over time has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms just as much as anti-depressants. Exercise stimulates the release of several neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, that regulate mood. Serotonin contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness which can help reduce depression and regulate anxiety. Dopamine is associated with pleasure and reward, it is the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter.

But how much exercise do you need in order to gain these benefits? The current recommendation by the department of health is at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

But to see improvements in fitness and health it is recommended to do around 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, accumulated in short bouts throughout the day.


Milad Rouf Final Year Medical Student, Cardiff University.

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