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The Health Benefits of Physical Activity
Physical activity isn’t just a euphemism for exercise - they’re actually two different things. The World Health Organization defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure,” while exercise is a type of physical activity that is “planned, structured, repetitive, and purposeful in the sense that the improvement or maintenance of one or more components of physical fitness is the objective.” You don’t need to run a mile, climb a mountain, or even set foot in a gym to enjoy the health benefits of physical activity; all you need to do is move your body.
Improved Sleep Quality
Physical activity early in the day can lead to better sleep at night. It can help you fall asleep faster and actually deepen your sleep so that you feel more rested when you wake up. Just make sure not to engage in rigorous physical activity too close to bedtime, as it could result in the production of chemicals in your body that energize you and could keep you awake.
Physical activity causes your body to produce endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that serve a variety of functions in the body, one of which is making you happy. According to the American Psychological Association, physical activity can also have long-term effects on depression. Physical activity has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety by boosting levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that creates feelings of well-being.
You can think of this as a chain reaction: when you get more restful sleep and you’re in a more positive mood, you are perfectly positioned to be productive. Engaging in physical activity leads to better focus. You may also find that it makes your creativity flow more freely and you don’t get distracted as easily.
Lower Risk of Health Conditions
According to the Centers for Disease Control, physical activity can reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and even some cancers. This is because regular physical activity helps to control levels of cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Physical activity also reduces your risk of physical injury by strengthening your muscles, increasing your endurance, and improving your balance.
Some quick ideas to help you get moving include a walk around your neighborhood, a leisurely bike ride, or a stretch session at home. Physical activity comes in many forms and can usually be added into your schedule quite easily.