Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Regular Exercise May Ward Off Dozens of Health Problems

Regular Workouts Lower Risk of Certain Cancers, Heart Disease, Stroke, Depression, Many Other Conditions
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Nov. 17, 2010 -- People who exercise on a regular basis not only can reduce their odds of becoming obese, but also cut their risk of developing about two dozen physical and mental health problems, a new review of more than 40 studies indicates.

Exercise reduces the risk of some cancers, dementia, sexual problems like erectile dysfunction, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, and hypertension, among many other diseases, according to the review.

The study is published in the December issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice.

Quit Smoking and Exercise Often

Aside from quitting smoking, the best thing a person can do to try to stay healthy is exercise on a regular basis, says Leslie Alford, a physiotherapist and lecturer at the University of East Anglia in England.

“The literature reviewed shows that how long people live and how healthy they are depends on a complex mix of factors, including their lifestyle, where they live, and even luck,” Alford says in a news release. “Individuals have an element of control over some of these factors, including obesity, diet, smoking, and physical activity.”

He says his research review focused on men’s health but that its findings apply to both sexes and all age groups.

Alford reviewed 40 studies covering the latest international research published between 2006 and 2010.

According to his study:

  • There is a strong relationship between increased physical activity and reduced colon cancer in both sexes.
  • Men who are more active at work and not simply sitting at a desk most of the day have lower rates of prostate cancer.
  • Men who engage in physical activity are less likely to have erection problems.
  • Physical activity reduces the risk of dementia in the elderly.

 

What People Should Do to Reduce Health Risks

Alford says healthy adults between 18 and 65 should strive for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise a week. That would equate to about a half hour of brisk walking five days per week.

People who exercise more vigorously, such as joggers, should shoot for 20 minutes of that activity three times per week.

He says exercise can help older people maintain their balance and flexibility, and recommends that people who are physically active not slow down as they age, but try to increase fitness activities.

“Ideally, to gain maximum health benefits, people should exercise, not smoke, eat a healthy diet, and have a body mass index of less than 25,” Alford says. “The more of these health traits an individual has, the less likely they are to develop a range of chronic disorders. Even if people can’t give up smoking and maintain a healthy weight, they can still gain health benefits from increasing the amount of regular exercise they take.”

Alford says walking, cycling, running, dancing, swimming, and gardening all classify as physical activity. And for those who think that it’s too late, he says people are never too old to start some sort of healthful physical activity.

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

Wet feet on shower floor tile
Slideshow
Flat Abs
Slideshow
 
Build a Better Butt Slideshow
Slideshow
woman using ice pack
Quiz
 

man exercising
Article
7 most effective exercises
Interactive
 
Man looking at watch before workout
Slideshow
Overweight man sitting on park bench
Video
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Chill Out and Charge Up Challenge – How to help your tribe de-stress and energize.
Spark Change Challenge - Ready for a healthy change? Get some major motivation.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

pilates instructor
Slideshow
jogger running among flowering plants
Video
 
woman walking
Article
Taylor Lautner
Article