Health or fitness article

Exercise & Fitness

Exercising regularly, every day if possible, is the single most important thing you can do for your health. In the short term, exercise helps to control appetite, boost mood, and improve sleep. In the long term, it reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dementia, depression, and many cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following:

For adults of all ages

  • At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise like brisk walking or 75 minutes of rigorous exercise like running (or an equivalent mix of both) every week. It’s fine to break up exercise into smaller sessions as long as each one lasts at least 10 minutes.
  • Strength-training that works all major muscle groups—legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms—at least two days a week. Strength training may involve lifting weights, using resistance bands, or exercises like push-ups and sit-ups, in which your body weight furnishes the resistance.

For pregnant women

The guidelines for aerobic exercise are considered safe for most pregnant women. The CDC makes no recommendation for strength training. It’s a good idea to review your exercise plan with your doctor.

For children

At least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, most of which should be devoted to aerobic exercise. Children should do vigorous exercise and strength training, such as push-ups or gymnastics, on at least three days every week.

7 Surprising Benefits of Exercise

You probably have a vague sense that exercise is good for you—and you’ve probably heard that it’s “healthy for the heart.” But if you’re like most people, that’s not enough motivation to get you to break a sweat with any regularity. As I report in the TIME cover story, “The Exercise Cure,” only 20% of Americans get the recommended 150 minutes of strength and cardiovascular physical activity per week, more than half of all baby boomers report doing no exercise whatsoever, and 80.2 million Americans over age 6 are entirely inactive.

Photograph by Gjon Mili—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images. Colorization by Sanna Dullaway for TIME

That’s bad news, but emerging evidence shows that there are plenty of compelling reasons to start moving at any age and even if you’re ill or pregnant. Indeed, scientists are learning that exercise is, actually, medicine. “There is no pill that comes close to what exercise can do,” says Claude Bouchard, director of the human genomics laboratory at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana. “And if there was one, it would be extremely expensive.”

You can read the whole story for more, but here are some of the amazing things that happen to a body in motion.

1. Exercise is great for your brain.

It’s linked to less depression, better memory and quicker learning. Studies also suggest that exercise is, as of now, the best way to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, a major fear for many Americans.

Scientists don’t know exactly why exercise changes the structure and function of the brain, but it’s an area of active research. So far, they’ve found that exercise improves blood flow to the brain, feeding the growth of new blood vessels and even new brain cells, thanks to the protein BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). BDNF triggers the growth of new neurons and helps repair and protect brain cells from degeneration. It may also help people focus, according to recent research.

2. You might get happier.

Countless studies show that many types of exercise, from walking to cycling, make people feel better and can even relieve symptoms of depression. Exercise triggers the release of chemicals in the brain—serotonin, norepinephrine, endorphins, dopamine—that dull pain, lighten mood and relieve stress. “For years we focused almost exclusively on the physical benefits of exercise and really have ignored the psychological and emotional benefits of being regularly active,” says Cedric Bryant, chief science officer of the American Council on Exercise.

Get our Health Newsletter. Sign up to receive the latest health and science news, plus answers to wellness questions and expert tips.

Thank you!

For your security, we’ve sent a confirmation email to the address you entered. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters. If you don’t get the confirmation within 10 minutes, please check your spam folder.

3. It might make you age slower.

Exercise has been shown to lengthen lifespan by as much as five years. A small new study suggests that moderate-intensity exercise may slow down the aging of cells. As humans get older and their cells divide over and over again, their telomeres—the protective caps on the end of chromosomes—get shorter. To see how exercise affects telomeres, researchers took a muscle biopsy and blood samples from 10 healthy people before and after a 45-minute ride on a stationary bicycle. They found that exercise increased levels of a molecule that protects telomeres, ultimately slowing how quickly they shorten over time. Exercise, then, appears to slow aging at the cellular level.

4. It’ll make your skin look better.

Aerobic exercise revs up blood flow to the skin, delivering oxygen and nutrients that improve skin health and even help wounds heal faster. “That’s why when people have injuries, they should get moving as quickly as possible—not only to make sure the muscle doesn’t atrophy, but to make sure there’s good blood flow to the skin,” says Anthony Hackney, an exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Train long enough, and you’ll add more blood vessels and tiny capillaries to the skin, too.

The skin also serves as a release point for heat. (See “Why Does My Face Turn Red When I Exercise?” for more on that.) When you exercise, your muscles generate a lot of heat, which you have to give up to the environment so your body temperature doesn’t get too high, Hackney says. The heat in the muscle transfers to the blood, which shuttles it to the skin; it can then escape into the atmosphere.

5. Amazing things can happen in just a few minutes.

Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says. (For more on the 1-minute workout read this.)

6. It can help you recover from a major illness.

Even very vigorous exercise—like the interval workouts Gibala is studying—can, in fact, be appropriate for people with different chronic conditions, from Type 2 diabetes to heart failure. That’s new thinking, because for decades, people with certain diseases were advised not to exercise. Now scientists know that far more people can and should exercise. A recent analysis of more than 300 clinical trials discovered that for people recovering from a stroke, exercise was even more effective at helping them rehabilitate.

Dr. Robert Sallis, a family physician at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center in California, has prescribed exercise to his patients since the early 1990s in hopes of doling out less medication. “It really worked amazingly, particularly in my very sickest patients,” he says. “If I could get them to do it on a regular basis—even just walking, anything that got their heart rate up a bit—I would see dramatic improvements in their chronic disease, not to mention all of these other things like depression, anxiety, mood and energy levels.”

7. Your fat cells will shrink.

The body uses both carbohydrates and fats as energy sources. But after consistent aerobic exercise training, the body gets better at burning fat, which requires a lot of oxygen to convert it into energy. “One of the benefits of exercise training is that our cardiovascular system gets stronger and better at delivering oxygen, so we are able to metabolize more fat as an energy source,” Hackney says. As a result, your fat cells—which produce the substances responsible for chronic low-grade inflammation—shrink, and so does inflammation.

Most Popular on TIME

Write to Mandy Oaklander at [email protected]

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

  • More federal funding needed to increase Americans’ active transportation habits

Thursday, January 2, 2020

  • Keep exercising: New study finds it’s good for your brain’s gray matter

Friday, December 20, 2019

  • Popular gyms undermining health with tanning beds

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

  • Walking and cycling to work linked with fewer heart attacks

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

  • Changes in the immune system explain why belly fat is bad for thinking
  • Large study links sustained weight loss to reduced breast cancer risk

Thursday, December 12, 2019

  • Experts review evidence yoga is good for the brain
  • Veterans study suggest two sub-types of Gulf War illness
  • Running research: Heel-toe or toe-heel?

Monday, December 9, 2019

  • Reducing the side-effects of prostate hormone therapy with exercise

Saturday, December 7, 2019

  • Women, exercise and longevity

Thursday, December 5, 2019

  • Clinical study finds eating within 10-hour window may help stave off diabetes, heart disease

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

  • Being active reduces risk of prostate cancer
  • Cellular repair response to treadmill test can predict cardiac outcomes
  • Scientists create ‘epigenetic couch potato’ mouse
  • Respiration key to increase oxygen in the brain

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

  • How does protein fit in your holiday diet or New Year’s resolutions?

Monday, December 2, 2019

  • Throwing cold water on ice baths: Avoid this strategy for repairing or building muscle

Monday, November 25, 2019

  • Wearable sweat sensor detects gout-causing compounds

Monday, November 18, 2019

  • Benefits of exercise referral schemes not as large as hoped

Sunday, November 17, 2019

  • Teens with heart disease improve exercise capacity in large clinical trial

Friday, November 15, 2019

  • Master regulator in mitochondria is critical for muscle function and repair

Thursday, November 14, 2019

  • The ways astronauts prep for spaceflight could benefit cancer patients, say researchers

Thursday, November 7, 2019

  • Increased exercise over the age of 60 reduces risk of heart disease and stroke

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

  • Physical activity may protect against new episodes of depression

Monday, November 4, 2019

  • Adding weight loss counseling to group visits improves diabetes outcomes

Friday, November 1, 2019

  • Quality over quantity! Interval walking training improves fitness and health in elderly individuals

Thursday, October 31, 2019

  • High-intensity exercise improves memory in seniors

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

  • Gut bacteria is key factor in childhood obesity
  • Avocados may help manage obesity, prevent diabetes

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

  • Vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor muscle function in adults aged 60+

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

  • Exercise can reduce artery stiffness associated with heart failure
  • Metformin offers no strength training benefits for seniors, study shows

Friday, October 18, 2019

  • Potato as effective as carbohydrate gels for boosting athletic performance, study finds
  • Genes linked to sex ratio and male fertility in mice
  • Increase health benefits of exercise by working out before breakfast

Thursday, October 17, 2019

  • Why some US football players have higher cardiovascular risk

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

  • Exercise guidelines for cancer survivors
  • Factors that predict obesity by adolescence revealed

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

  • Rise in testosterone level boosts young women’s running capacity

Friday, October 11, 2019

  • ‘Cross-transfer’ benefits of special exercise technique questioned

Thursday, October 10, 2019

  • Maternal obesity speeds up aging in offspring
  • One in five cardiac rehab patients are depressed, anxious, or stressed

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

  • Losing weight — and keeping it off — linked to cardiometabolic benefits
  • Care for knee osteoarthritis in the United States

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

  • Regular exercise is good for your heart, no matter how old you are!

Thursday, October 3, 2019

  • Heart failure and the obesity paradox

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

  • Chair yoga more effective than music therapy in older adults with advanced dementia

Monday, September 23, 2019

  • Boosting daily nut consumption linked to less weight gain and lower obesity risk
  • For young athletes, sport specialization means increased risk of injury

Thursday, September 19, 2019

  • Did a common childhood illness take down the Neanderthals?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

  • New pathway that controls fat formation
  • Exercise could slow withering effects of Alzheimer’s

Monday, September 16, 2019

  • Short-term study suggests vegan diet can boost gut microbes related to body weight, body composition and blood sugar control

Thursday, September 12, 2019

  • GymCam tracks exercises that wearable monitors can’t
  • Exercising at home has a positive effect on Parkinson’s patients

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

  • Biology of bat wings may hold lessons for cold-weather work, exercise

Monday, September 9, 2019

  • The fast and the curious: Fitter adults have fitter brains

Thursday, September 5, 2019

  • Temps up, blood pressures down in hot yoga study

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

  • Mouthwash use could inhibit benefits of exercise

Saturday, August 31, 2019

  • Sedentary lifestyle for 20 years linked to doubled early mortality risk compared to being active

Friday, August 30, 2019

  • Skin cancer risk in athletes: The dangers of ultraviolet radiation
  • It’s never too late to start exercising, new study shows

Thursday, August 29, 2019

  • Exercise in pregnancy improves health of obese mothers by restoring their tissues, mouse study finds

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

  • Waist size, not body mass index, may be more predictive of coronary artery disease
  • The role of a single molecule in obesity
  • High-protein bedtime snacks no problem for active women

Monday, August 26, 2019

  • Scientists identify potential cause of statin-related muscle pain
  • Exercise is good for the aging brain

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

  • Football scores a health hat-trick for 55- to 70-year-old women with prediabetes

Thursday, August 15, 2019

  • Vegetable-rich diet lowers fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients by raising good cholesterol

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

  • Physical and mental exercise lower chances for developing delirium after surgery
  • Exercise associated with benefit to patients with advanced colorectal cancer
  • Aerobic exercise programs may improve endurance, walking after stroke

Monday, August 12, 2019

  • Over-55s shouldn’t wait for retirement to make time for their health

Saturday, August 10, 2019

  • Reduced carbohydrate intake improves type 2 diabetics’ ability to regulate blood sugar

Friday, August 9, 2019

  • The mind-muscle connection: For aesthetes, not athletes?

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

  • Research advances to better target debilitating effects of cachexia syndrome

Thursday, August 1, 2019

  • Jogging and five other exercises ward off weight gain despite ‘obesity genes’

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

  • PE fitness tests have little positive impact for students
  • Weight stigma in men associated with harmful health consequences

Friday, July 26, 2019

  • Novel imaging approach has potential to identify patients with CAD

Thursday, July 25, 2019

  • How and why resistance training is imperative for older adults
  • One or the other: Why strength training might come at the expense of endurance muscles

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

  • Waist size is a forgotten factor in defining obesity
  • Meal timing strategies appear to lower appetite, improve fat burning
  • New data fills research gaps on weight loss experiences for minority groups
  • Former NFL players may face higher risk of atrial fibrillation

Friday, July 19, 2019

  • Astronauts less likely to faint on Earth if they exercise in space; findings may help others with fainting issues

Thursday, July 18, 2019

  • Researchers use Twitter and AI to see who is hitting the gym
  • SIRT6 over-expression may prevent progression of diabetes, study finds

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

  • Slug, a stem cell regulator, keeps breast cells healthy by promoting repair of DNA damage

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

  • Exercise improves brain function in overweight and obese individuals

Monday, July 8, 2019

  • A tale of two proteins: The best and worst of metabolic adaptation

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

  • Quorn protein builds muscle better than milk protein

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

  • A short bout of exercise enhances brain function
  • Supervised fun, exercise both provide psychosocial benefit to children with obesity

Monday, July 1, 2019

  • Blood pressure self-monitoring helps get patients with hypertension moving, study says

Thursday, June 27, 2019

  • Extreme exercise can strain the heart without causing permanent damage

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

  • Heart risk raised by sitting in front of the TV, not by sitting at work

Workout Information

Fitness: Basics

  • The Lifelong Benefits of Exercise
  • Exercise and Physical Activity: What’s the Difference?
  • How Much Exercise Is Enough?
  • Fitness Glossary
  • How to Buy the Right Home Exercise Equipment
  • How to Exercise Safely
  • How to Exercise With Arthritis and Sore Joints
  • Using Exercise to Beat Stress
  • Choose Safe Activities
  • Eating Right for Exercise
  • Health Club Etiquette 101
  • Measuring Your Personal Fitness Level
  • The Benefits of a Personal Trainer
  • The Best Athletic Shoes for Your Workout
  • Running Shoes: A Buyer’s Guide
  • How to Buy the Right Walking Shoes
  • Choosing the Right Workout Clothes
  • Choosing the Right Sports Bra
  • Sports Drinks and Exercise
  • Stretching May Not Prevent Runners’ Injuries
  • Exercise Not a Priority in Southern States
  • How to Choose the Best Bike for You
  • Making the Most of Exercise to Fight Obesity
  • Hula-Hoop Might Help Shed Unwanted Pounds
  • 5 Benefits of Interval Training
  • 8 Ways to Focus on Getting Fit
  • Older, Fitter, Motivated: Meet the New (Middle-Aged) Personal Trainers
  • Tiffany Rothe: Change Your Mind and Body
  • Nigel Lythgoe’s Mission to Get America Dancing
  • 9/11 Responders, Workers Still Suffer an Excess of Illnesses
  • Jogging Beats Weight Lifting for Losing Belly Fat
  • Is the P90X Workout Right for You?
  • Greater Exercise Intensity May Add Years to Life
  • Bethenny Frankel’s Secrets to Staying Fit
  • Is Barefoot Running Really Better?
  • First Lady Michelle Obama Hopes to Set a World Record for Jumping Jacks
  • Jonathan Roche: Interval Training for Everyone
  • Runners Can Relax About Holiday Feasting
  • 5 Fresh Fitness Trends for 2012
  • Does Exercising Have an Afterburn Effect?
  • More Exercise Could Make For Better Sleep
  • Fitness May Lower Death Risk Even Without Weight Loss
  • Should You Use the Talk Test?
  • 8 Everyday Ways to Flatten Your Abs
  • Lots of Exercise May Boost Kids’ Grades
  • Safety Tips for Cold-Weather Exercise
  • Which City Is the Fittest of the Fit?
  • Avoid Getting Scorched by ‘Hot Yoga’
  • Angry Boss? Tell Him or Her to Hit the Gym
  • The Yoga Secrets of the New York Giants
  • More U.S. Doctors Are Urging Patients to Exercise
  • Exercise a Defense Against Dementia
  • Exercise Can Build Young Adults’ Bones
  • What to Eat Before, During, and After Your Workout
  • Should You Try the Bar Method?
  • Desk Jockeys Urged to Take Small Steps to Get Exercise
  • Exercise Might Boost Kids’ Academic Ability
  • Cooler Hands Might Boost Your Workout
  • Too Much Exercise Delays Pregnancy in Normal-Weight Women
  • Runner’s High May Be Behind Exercise’s Evolution
  • Bob Harper on Overcoming Self-Doubt, Finding His ‘Light’
  • Overuse Injuries Common Among Female College Athletes
  • The Secret to Stronger Muscles
  • Leisurely Strolls More Popular, Yet Walk Times Shorter
  • Exercise Plus Computer Time May Boost Seniors’ Brains
  • Surf More to Improve Your Fitness
  • Travelers to Work Out While They Wait at Airports
  • ‘Dance Walk’ Your Way to Fitness, Baby
  • Joggers Live Longer
  • That Long Commute May Be Harming Your Health
  • Exercise May Boost Survival in Breast, Colon Cancer
  • Move More to Meet Exercise Recommendations
  • Fitness Fights High Blood Pressure, Even With Family History
  • Skechers Settles Suit Over Shape-up Sneakers
  • Life and Fitness Coach Jillian Michaels
  • Running Made Smarter, Not Harder
  • Runners May Live Longer
  • The Three Best Exercises for Sleek Summer Arms
  • Say Good-Bye to Your Love Handles
  • Exercise Controls Weight in White Girls Better Than in Black Girls
  • Your Favorite Workout Songs, Vol. 1
  • Active Kids Say Quality of Life Is Better
  • Quick Fixes for Sore Muscles
  • How Fit Are You? A Fitness Test for Adults
  • Get Fit Without Going to the Gym
  • A Simple Kettlebell Workout for Beginners
  • The Key to Fast Belly-Fat Loss
  • Laila Ali’s Triathlon Training Tips
  • NEAT Exercises for Couch Potatoes
  • Growth Hormone a Top Target of Olympic Drug Testing
  • Too Much Water Bigger Threat Than Too Little
  • Little Back Up for Sports Drink, Product Claims
  • Why Does My Face Flush When I Exercise?
  • Olympic Doctors Ready to Treat Team U.S.A.
  • Does Carb-Loading Really Work?
  • Could Gene Doping Be Part of Future Olympics?
  • Why Johnny Can’t Run
  • Can Raisins Make You Run Faster?
  • An At-Home Boxing Workout for Women
  • Motivational Quotes From Olympic Athletes
  • How Do You ‘Find Your Greatness’?
  • What It Takes to Train for the Olympics
  • More Americans Walking, But Still Not Enough
  • ‘Exergames’ Can Help Inactive Folks Get Moving
  • How to Do the Perfect Bench Press
  • Do You Need a Prescription for Exercise?
  • 30 Minutes of Exercise Does the Trick, Study Says
  • Midlife Fitness May Delay Chronic Disease
  • Gain the Confidence to Work Out
  • Exercise May Prevent Stress and Anxiety
  • Should You Try Hot Yoga?
  • Sitting Can Kill, Even If You Exercise
  • Mud Runs: A Down and Dirty Fitness Trend
  • How Workouts Boost Brain Power
  • Sitting Can Harm Health, Even for Those Who Exercise
  • How Fit Is Your Family? A Fitness Test for Kids
  • How to Start a Fitness Plan Over 40
  • Walk More to Live 7.2 Years Longer
  • Exercise Is Easier When You Feel Inadequate
  • Ten-Minute Walks a Stretch for Most Americans
  • Running Farther, Faster Could Shorten Your Life
  • Jogging Outside Could Make You Dumber
  • Many Kids Not Meeting Physical Activity Goals
  • Everyday Activities May Have Same Health Benefits as Going to Gym
  • High-Intensity Interval Training for Beginners
  • 9 Amazing Reasons Women Should Lift Weights
  • Over-Exercising Linked to Life-Threatening Condition Called ‘Rhabdo’
  • 5 Essential Winter Running Tips
  • Running 101: 8 Basic Types of Runs
  • The Best Strength Training Exercises For Runners
  • Do’s and Don’ts for Exercising While Pregnant
  • Running 101: How Fast Should You Run?
  • Running 101: Speed Training For Beginners
  • How Do I Stay Safe While Trail Running?
  • 13 Tips For Safe Running
  • Only 1 in 5 Americans Gets Enough Exercise: CDC
  • Only 1 in 5 Americans Gets Enough Exercise
  • The Best Cities for Exercise
  • And America’s Fittest City Is…
  • Smartphone Apps Can Make Workouts More Fun
  • Heading Soccer Balls Tied to Damaging Brain Changes
  • Calcium, Vitamin D Impact Bones’ Response to Exercise
  • Teen Drinkers, Pot Smokers at Raised Risk of Concussion, Study Says
  • Your Smartphone May Be Making You Fat
  • Germs in the Gym
  • Is Hot Yoga Dangerous?
  • 7 Reasons You Should Listen To Music When You Work Out
  • 10 Things Only Runners Understand
  • Best and Worst Health News of 2013
  • Just 1 in 4 U.S. Teens Gets Enough Exercise: Report

Workouts

  • Design Your Best Workout Plan
  • Why You Need Aerobic Exercise
  • Aerobic Equipment: The Treadmill and More
  • Strength Training Equipment: A User’s Guide
  • The Many Benefits of Tai Chi
  • Pilates: A Mind-Body Exercise
  • Add Flexibility Exercises to Your Workout
  • Smart Fitness
  • Walk Your Way to Fitness
  • 5 Great Outdoor Exercise Workouts
  • Secrets to Running a 5K Race
  • Which Health Club Is Right for You?
  • 6 Reasons to Add Strength Training to Your Workout Plan
  • Get Fit With a Stability Ball: The Basics
  • Planning Your Pregnancy Workout
  • Is Fitness Boot Camp For You?
  • Exercise Prep for Golf
  • The Mind and Body Benefits of Yoga
  • Boost Your Energy Level With Exercise
  • The Fun of Indoor Cycling Workouts
  • Getting Fit With Martial Arts
  • 10 Ways to Improve Your Treadmill Workout
  • Kickboxing Your Way to Fitness
  • Getting Ready to Run a Marathon
  • The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
  • Get Into Shape for Skiing
  • How to Train Like an Olympian
  • Surprising Ways to Burn Calories This Summer
  • Adding Krav Maga to Your Exercise Routine
  • Toning Shoes: Do They Really Work?
  • Getting Fit With Zumba
  • Olympic Workout: We Tried It
  • U.S. Olympic Team Says Everyone Should Take a Stab at Fencing
  • Olympic Workout Week 1: Track and Field
  • Locker Room Etiquette Questions, Answered
  • Should You Take A Multivitamin?
  • Jillian Michaels: 3 Techniques to Get Fit Fast
  • Can You Change Your Body Type?
  • Eat Before A Workout: Is It Necessary?
  • Active Video Games Burn Calories
  • The Benefits of a Morning Workout
  • Forget the Debate: Obama and Romney Take a Beating at the Gym
  • Morning Exercise: How Do You Stick To Your A.M. Fitness Routine?
  • Is Your Workout Better if Your Body Trembles?
  • 5 Workout Moves That Feel Like Play
  • Jillian Michaels: Get the Most Out of Your Cardio Workout
  • Jillian Michaels’ Guide to Stretching
  • Jillian Michaels’ Workout Dos and Don’ts
  • Life Lessons We’ve Learned From Running
  • Why You Need to Change Your Workout
  • Olympic Workout Week 4: Cycling
  • Olympic Workout Week 3: Water Sports
  • Olympic Workout Week 2: Gymnastics

Health Conditions

  • How to Exercise With Health Conditions
  • Sudden Death Risk From Exercise Linked to Arrhythmia Gene
  • Heart-Friendly Exercise Advice
  • Do Mental Workouts Really Work?
  • 6 Tips to Prevent Back Pain
  • Exercise for Everyone
  • Can Exercise Control Back Pain?
  • Healthy Back Exercises mdash; Strengthen and Stretch
  • Exercise for a Healthy Back: Aerobics
  • Exercise to Help Chronic Fatigue
  • Muscle Soreness, Explained
  • Should I Do Cardio or Weights First?
  • Cardio or Weights? A New Study Answers the Weight Loss Debate
  • 6 Tips For Choosing a Yoga Teacher
  • How to Make the Most of a 10-Minute Workout
  • Best Fitness Trackers: What Should You Try?
  • 10 Ways to Get Healthier in 10 Minutes or Less
  • 10 Reasons Why Every Athlete in the World Should Meditate

Fitness Motivation

  • 10 Ways to Work In Effective Workouts
  • How to Stay Motivated to Keep Exercise Exciting
  • How to Get Out of a Workout Rut
  • Get Motivated With a Fitness Role Model
  • How Not to Overtrain During Exercise

Fitness Team

  • Avoid These Most Common Mistakes When Exercising
  • Design Your Best Workout Plan
  • Aerobic Equipment: The Treadmill and More

Facebook Twitter

Essay on health and fitness. Find high quality essays on ‘Health and Fitness’ especially written for children, school, college and university students.

Health and fitness are two concepts that go hand in hand. Our health is the totality of our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Fitness, on the other hand, is a state of control over our body. Thus, we could be physical, mentally and emotionally fit. Consequently, health and fitness can be regarded as a way to attaining control over our body.

Audience: The below given essays are exclusively written for children, school students (Class 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 Standard) and college students.

List of Essays on Health and Fitness

Essay on Health and Fitness – Short Essay for Children (Essay 1 – 200 Words)

Introduction:

Health and fitness are a very important aspect of life that includes having both physically and mentally fit body. With the help of a balanced diet and regular exercise a person can improve his or her health and fitness.

Relationship between Health and Fitness:

A good health means that a person is physically and mentally strong and fitness refers to the ability of the person to encounter the demands of the environment. The person possessing good health and fitness can enjoy his/her life completely.

How to Maintain Health and Fitness:

The following are the ways that can help in maintaining health and fitness:

1. Doing the daily exercise for at least 30 minutes.

2. Eating balanced and healthy food in limited quantity and at the right time.

3. Adequate sleeping and waking up early in the morning.

Benefits of Health and Fitness:

Below are the benefits of health and fitness for a person:

1. Reduces the risk of diseases like diabetes, obesity, etc.

2. Helps in healing the injuries quickly.

3. Increases the lifespan of the person.

4. Decreases stress and anxiety.

Conclusion:

With daily exercise and proper diet, a person can achieve good health and fitness. It not only makes the person happy but also makes him/her free of stress and worries.

Essay on Health and Fitness – How to be Healthy and Fit (Essay 2 – 250 Words)

Health and fitness is the real wealth a person should acquire to lead a peaceful and harmonious life. A person without both, may face many difficulties and find their real money spend on their health issues rapidly.

How to be Healthy and Fit?

Health and fitness are not only about physical appearance or muscle, but it is also about being internally, mentally and emotionally fit that will largely influence your day to day life. In earlier days people like our grandparents have kept good care of their health and fitness through healthy food and by leading a better lifestyle.

The recent generation was more ignorant of their health and fitness, but the situation has changed a lot recently. Better awareness about the importance of health and fitness has made everyone seriously working on this problem and find ways to stay healthier.

The basic step towards fitness is by keeping yourself calm and relaxed. This will help you in being both mentally and bodily fit to some extent. Exercises and other forms of workouts like dancing, yoga, etc., are the best ways to keep yourself fit and these practices will also, in turn, help you to be calm and composed.

Health and fitness play in your life a major role in keeping you and the people around you happy as well as healthy. Avoid those bad habits that will not only ruin your body and mind but also influence badly on the others around you, both mentally and physically. Health and fitness can be maintained through regular workouts, healthier food, and other healthier habits.

Essay on Health and Fitness (Essay 3 – 300 Words)

People often take the terms health and fitness as one and they do not think too much about the difference that is present in them. The thing is they can be treated as one but in some situations, they can exclude each other. Health and fitness represent the two most desirable features of every person’s life. The great thing about this fact is that you can create such a life for yourself.

The Difference:

Health and fitness represent the two most important aspects of our lives and this is especially true when you are a student and you need to advance through your studies and early career. Health is usually considered as the total physical wellbeing of the organism and its ability to fight off infections and disease. Fitness represents the bodies physical strength and overall ability to sustain physical exertion.

The Importance:

When we consider how important health and fitness are for the effectiveness of our endeavors it becomes clear why so many people have an obsession with them. This is why I consider that it is important for every person to have a personal health and fitness routine that they can implement in their daily lives. Regardless of what we do in life such a routine can do us good and create habits that we can practice to sustain an optimal level of productivity.

The only thing one should remember is that too much fitness can cause problems for your health, so balance is key. Otherwise having a health and fitness routine can only be good for you and all the endeavors you want to make in your career or personal life. Today’s world is all about health and fitness so every person has all the necessary tools they could ever need to make the best combination of diet and exercise for themselves.

Essay on Health and Fitness – For School Students (Class 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10) (Essay 4 – 400 Words)

Introduction:

Health and fitness are one of the most important aspect of life. Without these, the life will be very unhappy and dreadful. An unhealthy person will not be able to enjoy their life to full extent. We are all so busy in our lives that we start neglecting our health. This starts to affect our lives negatively and can lead to some severe problems.

What is meant by health and fitness?

Health of a person is defined as state of being free from any illness and injury. Along with the physical condition, it also includes the mental and social well-being of the person. Fitness is the condition of being physically fit and healthy so that the person is able to tackle the demands of the surrounding environment.

Importance of Health and Fitness:

For a successful, happy and peaceful life, health and fitness are very important. If a person is healthy and fit, he/she can live the life to its fullest extent. Health and fitness just does not mean physically but also mentally and healthy fit. There are many benefits of maintaining health and fitness of the body, like it lowers the risk of diseases like heart attack, high BP, obesity, and stroke; increases longevity of life, reduces stress, provides better quality of life and many others.

How to maintain health and fitness?

There are many ways to maintain your health and fitness. Certain activities should be followed daily like regular physical exercise. It can be a simple activity as climbing stairs instead of taking lift or elevator, walking more rather than taking car to go to different places. It is important to eat proper and clean food at the right time. The food should also be rich in nutrition such as high in fibre, low in fat, high protein content and have more vitamins. Proper sleeping pattern is also important to maintain health and fitness.

For any of these activities, it is important to be self-motivated. The fitness activities should be a part of your daily routine. All this will not only maintain your health and fitness but also improve your lifestyle.

Conclusion:

It is important to maintain health and fitness of not just our physical self but our mental self as well, to have a happy and fulfilled life. The maintenance of these should be taught to children at a young age so that they are used to doing certain activities and are motivated to continue doing them as they grow up.

Essay on Health and Fitness (Essay 5 – 500 Words)

Introduction:

Health and fitness are two concepts that go hand in hand. Our health is the totality of our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Fitness, on the other hand, is a state of control over our body. Thus, we could be physical, mentally and emotionally fit. Consequently, health and fitness can be regarded as a way to attaining control over our body.

Obesity, depressions, diabetes are some of the adverse effects of neglecting our physical or mental health and fitness. These conditions can lead to serious health challenges and in some extreme cases death. To reduce the risk of these we must keep fit at all times. We shall now examine the physical and mental dynamics of keeping fit mentally and physically.

Physical Health and Fitness:

Physical health and fitness refer to all form of positive steps we take to keep our body in good shape. Hence, it would include physical exercise and maintaining a healthy diet. It also involves constant medical checks to eliminate the risk of certain ailments.

The importance of constant exercise to our physical health and fitness cannot be overemphasized. Physical exercises ensure that our metabolic system is in great shape. Our metabolic system determines how much fat is stored in our body and the rate at which our body processes fat. Consequently, when we engage in physical exercise we store less fat in our body which is good for our overall health.

Another major factor that affects our physical health and fitness is eating healthy. While some food is great for our health, others can lead to damaging effects. Also, taking meals in the right property is a big part of keeping fit. Finally, though there might be conflicting information about what a good diet is, it is important to always eat in moderation.

Some of the benefits of physical health and fitness are as follows:

1. It helps you keep your cholesterol low.

2. It reduces blood pressure.

3. It increases the heart function and reduces the risk of heart-related conditions.

4. It improves our immune system such that we fall sick less often.

5. Increase in strength of muscles and bones.

Mental and Psychological Health and Fitness:

A lot of attention is usually given to physical health and fitness while neglecting our mental wellbeing. However, keeping our mind the same and our health sane is just as important as treating our body the same. Mental strain can affect our productivity and mood. It could also lead to serious health challenges such as depression and other mental illness.

To attain mental health and fitness we must keep our brain engaged with positive activities.

Some of these activities are as follows:

1. Reading intellectual materials that stimulate brain function.

2. Engaging in constant meditation to keep our mind focused.

3. Getting enough sleep on a daily basis.

4. Engaging less in tasks that can cause mental strain.

Conclusion:

Health and fitness encompass every area of our life including the way we treat our environment. Consequently, we must always keep fit to have a fulfilling life, therefore, there is a saying – health is wealth.

Essay on Health and Fitness – For College Students (Essay 6 – 600 Words)

Introduction:

Health and fitness are two separate words that are related because they influence each other. Health is defined as the state of wellbeing in which a person is free from illness and injury. Fitness is the state of being healthy and physically fit. Health is influenced by fitness and fitness is influenced by health. The trends in health and fitness are continuous and people strive to achieve both in their lives. Health and fitness continues to undergo transformation in the changing times especially with the influence of technology. It is important to be healthy and fit because of the benefits enjoyed.

How to be Healthy and Fit:

Health and fitness is a process that requires proper understanding. Health and fitness is something that someone has to have a purpose and stick to it in order to be successful at it. It is a challenge to remain health and fit because of the commitment it requires and the work that has to be done. Accepting the challenge is the first step into health and fitness. It is also important to find a partner with whom you can exercise with. It is something you can do with your spouse or a colleague at work just for the motivation. A workout schedule has to be formulated together with a dietary schedule.

Healthy foods should be a balanced diet but with less amounts of calories. However, calories should not be undertaken because exercise requires burning of calories for energy. Staying healthy and fit means that you have to eat well and exercise well and a schedule is important because it keeps you on track. It is also important to set goals like losing a certain amount of weight so that the goal will motivate you in remaining healthy and fit.

Importance of Health and Fitness:

Health and fitness is of great significance in the lives of individuals. It helps in preventing lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Physical fitness involves the burning of unnecessary fat in our bodies which helps to reduce the cholesterol in our blood. Having less cholesterol in the body reduces the chances of developing high blood pressure. Also, when exercising, we use up the calories in our bodies and therefore blood glucose is maintained at normal levels and thus reduces the chances of developing diabetes.

It is also important to remain healthy and fit in order to maintain normal body weight. The food we eat and activities we do influence our body weight. Being inactive and consuming unhealthy foods such as fast food could result in serious weight issues like obesity. Obesity is having a body mass index that is greater than 30. It has been associated with many chronic illnesses such as heart diseases and diabetes. In order to remain within normal body weight, health and fitness has to be prioritized.

Safety and self-defense is influenced by health and fitness. Being physically fit means that you are able to run and you are strong enough to defend yourself. Knowing how to fight is not an aspect of health and fitness. The ability to run fast is considered safe because you can always escape danger. Being unfit is disadvantageous in situations of danger because you will experience difficulty.

Conclusion:

Health and fitness is definitely important in the lives of individuals. Schools emphasize on health and fitness because by training young children on health and fitness, it positively influences their lives. Health and fitness does not necessarily mean hitting the gym every now and then but it is about the simple exercises and the food we eat.

Essay on Health and Fitness – How to Maintain a Good Health and Fitness (Essay 7 – 750 Words)

Introduction:

Health and fitness when properly maintained goes a long way in helping a person remain in a general state of well-being and health. Health and fitness can provide us with the ability to be able to perform activities that are physical without being restless or tired. If we want to maintain a very good health and fitness, we have to engage in physical exercise regularly and eat balanced diets. It is very important that we maintain our health and fitness so that we can stay healthy, fit, without fear of different diseases and also get all of the numerous benefits that come along with a healthy living.

A person that has good and proper health and fitness gets to live and enjoy his/her very well to the possible best. It is very necessary that every one of us in life lives a life of mental and physical fitness so that we can enjoy a life that is happy and healthy.

When we are fit and healthy, the probability of us falling ill and experiencing various medical conditions drops. When we talk about medical fitness, a lot of people assume it is just physical fitness but it is a lot more than that, overall fitness means we have to be fit both mentally and physically. We can only achieve a state of good mental fitness if we become physically fit.

If we want to remain very fit and healthy, the best way we can do that is through relieving our mind of all forms of stress through eating a balanced diet and regular exercise. If we maintain a weight that is ideal, we tend to be less prone to a lot of health conditions including cardiac problems. When we remain active physically, our mind is always relaxed. Fit and healthy people tend to face and overcome all the various problems life brings their way easily without suffering.

How one can maintain a Good Health and Fitness:

Today, there a lot of ways through which we can stay fit and healthy if we decide to abide by them.

Some of them include:

1. We should do our best to involve ourselves regularly in physical exercises every day by taking a little time out of our very hectic schedule. If we decide to take about 30 minutes or 60 minutes every day to exercise about five to six times in a week. We should be able to get enough exercise that would be ideal for us to stay fit.

2. Eating clean and healthy food in the proper quantity and in the appropriate time is quite important if we want to stay fit and healthy. The best way to attain good health is by a healthy nutrition that contains low fat, high fibre, very rich sources of minerals and vitamins, and high protein.

3. If we want to stay healthy and fit, we have to observe a very good sleep habit and pattern. It is very important that we keep a very high level of discipline in all of our routine daily and also try to focus on getting and maintain a sleeping pattern that commences and stops at the proper time. It is advised that we get about eight hours of sleep every night as this can help in boosting the immune system. Getting good hours of sleep can also go a long way in helping us prevent cardiovascular diseases and also goes a long way in improving the mood. We do not get enough sleep, we are very likely to suffer from a variety of mental disorders and sleep disorders.

Importance of Good Health and Fitness:

1. Reduces stress, anxiety level and depression.

2. It helps in improving the quality of one’s life.

3. It goes a long way in getting to live a little longer.

4. It helps in the healing of injuries quickly.

5. It can also help us increase our level of confidence.

6. It goes a long way to help us feel a lot better both mentally and physically.

7. It helps us in decreasing the risk of getting diseases like breast cancer, stroke, obesity, heart diseases and diabetes.

Conclusion:

Routine exercise and physical activities on a regular basis is quite necessary for everybody irrespective of their ages but most especially the younger generation (children). Health and fitness can help us accomplish a lot of happiness in this life. Health and fitness can also go a long way in helping us live a live that is free of disease and stress.

Essay on Health and Fitness – Long Essay for University Students (Essay 8 – 1000 Words)

Introduction:

Health and fitness help a person live a good and healthy life. Often due to various pressures at personal and professional level, we tend to ignore our health. This makes our body suffer and we catch up with lifestyle and other diseases. It is the fitness level of our body which helps us fight these diseases. If we are fit we are able to overcome these diseases or else we end up being victims of a modern lifestyle.

Definition and Relation:

Health and fitness are interrelated to each other. We need to be fit to have a healthy body. Similarly, if we are healthy we shall naturally be attracted towards maintaining the fitness of our body. Health is the state of our body at a given time. We may not have any disease but still, have a weak body which is ready to be targeted by a number of bacteria and viruses.

For instance, we may have a tendency to catch a cold easily. This does not definitely mean that we are not healthy. It means that our fitness levels are not in accordance with our age and the climatic conditions we live in. it all depends on our health which in turn is dependent on our fitness levels. So health and fitness move together.

Also, the fitness level is the state of our body based on our age, climatic conditions we live in, our lifestyle and our working conditions. One can see people having great fitness levels even in older age. For example, every morning in different parks you can two types of old people. One who is just meditating and sitting at one quietly enjoying the fresh air while the others who are jogging or walking briskly on tracks. They can even compete with the young people on the track. These are two types of fitness levels at the same age. It is all about how to fit we keep ourselves.

Moreover, you can see young people who are not able to climb stairs and tend to get tired easily. It is all because of their low levels of fitness that they are not able to keep good health. They are less fit as compared to other people of their age who keep themselves fit. The people who keep themselves fit keep their body healthy. So fitness levels decide the quality of our health.

How to maintain Health and Fitness:

It is important for everyone to devote some time to health and fitness. There are some activities which everyone should do in their daily lives. For instance, we must exercise daily irrespective of our age and working style. There are different levels of exercises for different age groups and we must do them as per our own health and age. Exercise keeps our healthy and fit. It keeps our body moving. Our muscles tend to contract if we do not make good use of them. Regular exercise stops them from contracting and improves our energy levels as well. One must devote at least some of the day for exercises.

Similarly, walking for some time in a day is a must for all. In fact, walking is considered the best exercise and is suited to all ages and fitness levels. It is important for maintaining health and fitness.

Additionally apart from walking and exercises, it is also important to relax our body. Therefore we should have at least six to eight hours of sleep every day. It is necessary to maintain proper levels of health and fitness. Moreover, it also helps in improving our immune system and prevents us from a number of diseases as well. Also, it helps in keeping us calm and relaxes our mind. This, in turn, reduces our stress and gives us new goals of health and fitness.

Importance of Food in Health and Fitness:

Food plays a vital role in maintaining health and fitness of our body. Our body absorbs nutrients from the food we eat. So we do not eat proper food our body does not get the required nutrients. This lowers the levels of health and fitness of our body and we are prone to a number of diseases. Therefore health experts usually say that we become what we eat.

So, in order to remain healthy and fit we must have a proper diet which contains the required amount of carbohydrates, fats, vitamin, proteins and minerals. We should eat vegetables and fruits as they provide us with the required vitamins and minerals. Milk provides us calcium which is essential for our bones. Additionally, we must stay away from junk food. Junk food contains excess amounts of carbohydrates and fats which get accumulated in our body and make us fat. The excess weight of our body makes us lazy and we catch up diseases more easily.

Conclusion:

We must respect the body God has given us and take care of it in a good manner. We must neglect ourselves for the sake of work and other activities in our life. It is important to understand that we can perform our duties in life properly only we pay attention to the health and fitness levels of our body. Otherwise, although we may want to do something but our body may not support us. Hence we may not able to achieve our goals in life.

It is not necessary to be an athlete to have a good body. Every person in the world needs to have a healthy and fit body so as to stay away from disease and have a long and healthy life. Moreover, we must remember our importance for our families and society. If we suffer from diseases, our family members also get troubled. It affects their health and fitness as well.

The only way to have a healthy body is to ensure the proper fitness levels of our body. That is why even in schools so much of importance is given to the health and fitness levels of students. If we keep our body fit, we can enjoy life in a better manner.

Facebook Twitter

Share this…
FacebookPinterestTwitteremail

Happy National Physical Fitness and Sports Month! To put it simply, physical activity and exercise is important for everyone. Children, adolescents, and adults of all ages need regular physical activity. Physical activity promotes good health, and you should stay active throughout all stages of your life regardless of your body type or BMI.

Understanding the benefits of physical fitness and knowing how active you should be can help you maintain good health and improve your overall quality of life. Here are a few benefits of regular physical activity that demonstrate the importance of physical fitness.

Save money

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases cause 7 out of 10 deaths in the U.S., and treating chronic diseases accounts for 86% of U.S. healthcare costs. While some diseases cannot be prevented, you can reduce your risk for certain disease – such as heart disease and diabetes – through reducing risky behaviors and living a healthy lifestyle.

Making healthy choices, such as engaging in regular physical activity, can reduce your risk for many health issues and complications that can result in expensive medical care.

Increase your life expectancy

Numerous studies have shown that regular physical activity increases life expectancy and reduces the risk of premature mortality. There’s not a magic formula that translates hours of physical activity into hours of life gained, but research suggests that people who are more active tend to be healthier and tend to live longer.

Reduce your risk of injury

Regular exercise and physical activity increase muscle strength, bone density, flexibility, and stability. Physical fitness can reduce your risk for and resilience to accidental injuries, especially as you get older. For example, stronger muscles and better balance mean that you’re less likely to slip and fall, and stronger bones mean that your less likely to suffer bone injuries should you take a tumble.

Improve your quality of life

A sedentary lifestyle and a lack of physical activity can take a toll on a person’s body. Physical inactivity is associated with an increased risk for certain types of cancer, numerous chronic diseases, and mental health issues. Exercise, however, has been shown to improve mood and mental health, and provides numerous health benefits. Of course physical fitness also allows you to do things that you may not otherwise be able to do.

Stay active

Staying active and healthy allows you to do activities that require a certain level of physical fitness. For example, hiking to the top of a mountain is a rewarding experience that instills a sense of accomplishment and provides spectacular scenery, but there are people who cannot experience this due to fitness limitations.

But even walking around the zoo with your family or playing on the playground with your children can be challenging for those who neglect physical activity for extended periods of time. Being active means that it’s easier to stay active as you get older.

Improve your health

There are numerous health advantages to physical fitness. Regular exercise and physical activity promotes strong muscles and bones. It improves respiratory, cardiovascular health, and overall health. Staying active can also help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and reduce your risk for some cancers.

In other words, staying active is a crucial part of maintaining good health and wellness.

Here are the CDC physical activity guidelines for children, adults, adults over 65, and pregnant or postpartum women.

Encourage your family to be more active, and challenge yourself to meet daily or weekly physical activity goals. Play outdoor sports with the whole family, schedule time each day to go to the gym, or pick up healthy, active hobbies like hiking or cycling. National Physical Fitness and Sports Month is a great time to get more active, but don’t stop at the end of the month. Make exercise and physical activity a permanent part of your daily routine!

How student fitness affects brain function

Middle school students at Kaleidoscope Academy, a district charter school in Appleton, WI, are constantly moving. Everyone has a physical education class, called “phy-ed” here, at least twice a week. On top of that, there’s a daily lunch break that comes with time for kids to get outside and move around. Students can also choose from two additional exercise-focused electives — dance and personal fitness — which for some students can mean a 40-minute exercise period every day.

And the action doesn’t stop there. Teachers like Lisa Sackman in the sixth-grade wing offer “brain breaks” every 20 minutes. Teacher Travis Olsen has an exercise bike in the back of his seventh grade science classroom that kids are welcome to use whenever they feel the need. And eighth grade co-teachers Abby Jolma and Toni Giebel let kids sit on wobbly chairs — short stools with a curved base — yoga balls, or traditional chairs while they learn math and science.

“They need it,” Giebel says of the bouncing and fidgeting she now observes constantly during classes. “They need it so bad.”

Advertisement

Giebel says it’s clear to her that students concentrate better than they did three years ago when there were far fewer options for physical activity at school. But the kids themselves “don’t notice it,” she adds. Indeed, students are mostly unimpressed with how much movement they get in their day.

During a group science lab in Giebel and Jolma’s class, Anna Wang, 13, sat on one of the wobbly chairs the school purchased for classrooms this year. “It was the only option,” Anna, 13, says with a shrug as she rocks back and forth on the chair, adding that she doesn’t think the seating makes any difference.

Advertisement

Despite her stated disinterest, the level of physical activity Anna and her classmates experience during their school day is unusual and probably beneficial. In the U.S., where 31 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 are obese, most school children move far too little, experts say. Thirty years of focus on increasing academic minutes in the school day has resulted in reduced recess and physical education time at many schools. The lack of physical activity is taking a toll on student fitness and that’s bad for growing brains, research shows.

But now a growing number of politicians and educators, like those in Appleton, have begun to heed the research and decided that to improve academic performance, they must do something about their students’ physical fitness as well.

As a result of this new attitude, at least 14 state legislatures considered new laws in 2016 that would increase the amount of physical education or recess schools are required to offer or raise the bar for qualifications for physical education teachers, according to a 2016 report by the Society for Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE). Some even took action. Florida and Rhode Island now mandate 20 minutes of recess time a day for elementary school students.

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, also provides increased access to funding for physical education by including the subject in its definition of a “well-rounded education.”
“At least we’re at the table now,” said Carly Wright, advocacy director for SHAPE. “It sends a message: The federal government does believe should be part of a student’s education; it should be part of the school day.”

Charles Hillman, a kinesiology professor at Northeastern University in Boston who studies the connection between the body and the brain, says there’s strong evidence that supports making physical education and recess a priority in schools.

“The goal is to get kids moving throughout the school day,” Hillman says. While he grants that academic class time is also important, “clearly the academic at this point is at the cost of being physically active, and I think there has to be some level of accommodation.”

Hillman also cautions that physical activity alone has not been shown to increase cognitive performance. A slow walk, for example, does little to make anyone smarter. What is definitely tied to brain health, Hillman says, is physical fitness.

“Effects are actually found in the brain,” Hillman says. “We find higher fit kids have differential brain function than lower fit kids.”

The prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus of physically fit children are better developed than those of less fit children, Hillman says. These two brain structures control many of the abilities that lead to high academic achievement: long-term memory, self-regulation, and goal making, among other key functions.

Hillman, who is advising the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the latest exercise research for the 2018 revision of the department’s recommendations for physical fitness, says that evidence of a connection between fitness and brain function has mounted steadily over the years.

A 2009 Stanford University study found that fifth, seventh, and ninth grade students in California who passed the state physical fitness test and those whose fitness improved between fifth and seventh grade scored better than their less-fit peers on the state’s standardized tests. A 2013 study of nearly 12,000 Nebraska students also found that aerobically fit students were more likely to pass the state’s standardized math and reading tests, regardless of their weight or socioeconomic status. Another 2013 study that randomly assigned 8- and 9-year-old Illinois children to a nine-month after-school fitness program found that the kids whose fitness improved also got better at paying attention and ignoring distractions. They also improved to young-adult levels in their ability to regulate their behavior.

School districts that have added more physical activity to their daily schedules in the hope of improving academic performance have also seen measurable changes. When a Ft. Worth, TX school made a much-publicized switch for its kindergarten and first grade students from one 20-minute recess a day to four 15-minute recesses — or an hour, total — it found that students were more focused in class and that teachers were able to move through curricular material faster. Off-task behaviors in class decreased by 25 to 35 percent and students’ body mass indexes (weight divided by height) stabilized or decreased, says Deborah Rhea, a professor at Texas Christian University and the lead researcher on the longer-recess initiative.

“We’re at least getting closer to a healthy environment that’s conducive to learning for teachers and for kids,” Rhea says of the multiple 15-minute breaks.

All of this research comes after nearly three decades of school policies that decreased recess time amidst fears that the unstructured time led to student fights or took time away from students’ focus on passing standardized tests. One 2007 survey by George Washington University found that 20 percent of a representative sample of districts had decreased recess time by an average of 50 minutes a week and 9 percent had reduced physical education time by an average of 40 minutes.

Today, middle and high schools are still the least likely to have daily physical education or recess. Forty-one states require physical education at the middle school level, according to the 2016 annual report by SHAPE, and 46 require it in high school. But only 15 states include a specific amount of time middle school kids must spend in physical education per week; only six states have a similar time requirement at the high school level. Most states don’t require middle or high schools to offer recess at all.

The idea that young children need to move a lot is fairly intuitive to anyone who has ever spent time in the company of a child under age eight. But older children need movement, too — at least an hour a day according to federal guidelines — and they are getting a lot less of it. Fewer than one in three high school students — 27 percent in 2015 — are getting the recommended number of minutes of daily exercise, according to data from Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization focused on youth issues. Girls, black students, and Hispanic students get less exercise than white boys.

Moreover, budgets for physical education equipment and supplies are tiny; the median is just $764 per year per school, according to SHAPE’s 2016 report.

Many blame the federal education law known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which was enacted under former President George W. Bush, for the dearth of physical education funds and focus. “There was no phys ed in NCLB,” Wright says. “Teachers were cut, budgets were cut, some states repealed state policies on phys ed. There were definitely some pretty serious unintended consequences.”

Several factors seem to be leading educators and policymakers to begin addressing those consequences: the current backlash against standardized testing, the ever-improving understanding of brain science, and the influence of national campaigns like former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! and SHAPE’s efforts to influence national legislation, such as ESSA.

In Wisconsin, for example, the state education department oversees a program called Core 4+, which features inexpensive interventions to increase movement throughout the school day. The program is now in place at 450 schools serving over 300,000 students. Appleton, which has seen several of its schools receive national recognition for their efforts in this area, is one of the cities participating in Core 4+, better known by school leaders there as “active kids, active classrooms.”

The idea of adding so many minutes of movement to the day, especially during class, was initially met with some resistance, says Mikki Duran, who oversees Appleton’s physical education department. Teachers told her they didn’t have time. Duran’s answer was that taking time to move would actually result in more focused time to learn. Once they tried it, she says, most teachers became quick converts.

Today, every school in Appleton has its own program, each aimed at increasing physical activity and fitness. At Horizons Elementary, at least 40 of the school’s 350 kids start every day in the school gym playing a game like “Castle” — a kind of dodge ball, capture-the-flag mash-up. The gym stays open all day for teachers or aides wanting to bring kids down to run a lap and burn off some excess energy. There’s also a running club, and the teachers themselves often start staff meetings with a few laps around the school track.

The physical education teacher here, Carrie Michiels, has also introduced “Fit in 15” breaks for classroom teachers for the days their students aren’t scheduled to take a full physical education class.

“Kids are more alert, more involved” after the breaks, says fifth grade teacher Gina Dresang, a 23-year veteran. “It can be tricky. Once they get up, they can get silly and it takes time to get them back on task, but the benefits outweigh the downsides.”

For several educators in Appleton, the pursuit of better fitness has also become personal. After learning more about the effects of physical fitness on the brain a few years ago, Kaleidoscope principal Al Brant decided he needed to make a change. Heavy-set all his life, he opted for gastric bypass surgery, improved his diet, and started exercising. He lost 120 pounds and spent part of last summer on a trip with his daughter to climb 19,300 feet to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The photos of his trek decorate his office walls along with pictures of his bow-hunting expeditions.

“It changed my attitude about promoting phy-ed,” Brant says of his experience.

Now, he wants his students to know about personal fitness long before they become overweight adults. He has prioritized movement at his school, offering strong support to the physical education teachers. Staff meetings are now regularly interrupted as teachers get up and move for a few seconds or minutes, just like the “brain breaks” offered in most classrooms. Brant has also fully bought-in to the idea of movement during class. Last spring, he authorized the $9,072 purchase of 144 wobbly chairs — the ones the kids appear to love even as they insist they don’t.

The change in students’ ability to focus, especially in the kids who struggle with attention deficit disorder, has been noticeable, he says. He advises other principals thinking of making a shift at their schools to find a few adult champions who can help explain the brain science and offer practical advice to other teachers on how to make movement a bigger part of the day. He also says it’s worth having physical education options with clear curricula and learning standards. The more kids understand about what they can do to be fit now, the more likely they’ll be able to stay fit as adults.

Indeed, says Wright, the national advocate from SHAPE, the biggest payoff of more physical education and recess for America’s schoolchildren would be fitter adults.

“Students who are physically active and healthy have higher test scores, lower rates of discipline referrals, and increased focus in the classroom,” she says. And while that’s important, Wright also emphasized the health and wellness value of high-quality physical education: It teaches kids “how to be physically active for a lifetime.”

This article originally appeared on The Hechinger Report.

Share on PinterestUpdated: June 22, 2018 AdvertisementGet the GreatSchools newsletter – our best articles, worksheets and more delivered weekly. Advertisement

Why Exercise Is Wise

  • Larger text sizeLarge text sizeRegular text size

You’ve probably heard countless times how exercise is “good for you.” But did you know that it can actually help you feel good, too? Getting the right amount of exercise can rev up your energy levels and even help improve your mood.

Rewards and Benefits

Experts recommend that teens get 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Exercise benefits every part of the body, including the mind. Exercising causes the body to make chemicals that can help a person to feel good. Exercise can help people sleep better. It can also help some people who have mild depression and low self-esteem. Plus, exercise can give people a real sense of accomplishment and pride at having achieved a certain goal — like beating an old time in the 100-meter dash.
  • Exercise can help you look better. People who exercise burn more calories and look more toned than those who don’t. In fact, exercise can help keep your body at a healthy weight.
  • Exercise helps people lose weight and lower the risk of some diseases. Exercising regularly decreases a person’s risk of developing certain diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.
  • Exercise can help a person age well. This may not seem important now, but your body will thank you later. For example, osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones) can be a problem as people get older. Weight-bearing exercise — like jumping, running, or brisk walking — can help keep bones strong.

The three parts of a balanced exercise routine are: aerobic exercise, strength training, and flexibility training.

Aerobic Exercise

Like other muscles, the heart enjoys a good workout. Aerobic exercise is any type of exercise that gets the heart pumping and gets you breathing harder. When you give your heart and lungs this kind of workout regularly, they get stronger and are better at getting oxygen (in the form of oxygen-carrying blood cells) to all parts of your body.

If you play team sports, you’re probably getting at least 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity on practice days. Some team sports that give you a great aerobic workout are basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, and rowing.

But if you don’t play team sports, don’t worry — there are plenty of ways to get aerobic exercise. These include biking, running, swimming, dancing, in-line skating, tennis, cross-country skiing, hiking, and walking quickly.

Strength Training

The heart isn’t the only muscle to benefit from regular exercise. The other muscles in your body enjoy exercise too. When you use your muscles, they become stronger.

Strong muscles are also a plus because they support your joints and help prevent injuries. Muscle also use more energy than fat does, so building your muscles will help you burn more calories and maintain a healthy weight.

You don’t have to lift weights to make your muscles and bones stronger. Different types of exercise strengthen different muscle groups, for example:

  • For arms, try rowing or cross-country skiing. Pull-ups and push-ups, those old gym class standbys, are also good for building arm muscles.
  • For strong legs, try running, biking, rowing, or skating. Squats and leg raises also work the legs.
  • For abdominal and core strength, you can’t beat rowing, yoga or pilates, planks and crunches.

Flexibility Training

Strengthening the heart and other muscles isn’t the only important goal of exercise. Exercise can also help the body stay flexible, meaning that your muscles and joints stretch and bend easily.

Being flexible may also help improve a person’s sports performance. Some activities, like dance or martial arts, require great flexibility. But increased flexibility also can help people perform better at other sports, such as soccer or lacrosse.

Sports and activities that encourage flexibility are easy to find. Martial arts like karate, ballet, gymnastics, and yoga are good choices. Stretching after your workout will also help you improve your flexibility.

What’s Right for Me?

One of the biggest reasons people drop an exercise program is lack of interest: If what you’re doing isn’t fun, it’s hard to keep it up. The good news is there are tons of different sports and activities to try to see which one inspires you.

When picking the right type of exercise, it can help to consider your workout personality. For example, do you like to work out alone and on your own schedule? If so, solo sports like running, biking, or snowboarding could be for you. Or do you like the shared motivation and companionship that comes from being part of a team? School sports, intramural leagues, club teams, and pick-up games are great ways to stay active with others.

You also need to plan around practical considerations, such as whether your chosen activity is affordable and available to you. (Activities like horseback riding may be harder for people who live in cities, for example.) You’ll also want to think about how much time you can set aside for your sport.

It’s a good idea to talk to someone who understands the exercise, like a coach or fitness expert at a gym. He or she can get you started on a program that’s right for you and your level of fitness.

Doctors know that most people benefit from regular exercise, even those with disabilities or medical problems like asthma. If you have a health problem or other concern (like being overweight or very out of shape), talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise plan.

Considering the benefits to the heart, muscles, joints, and mind, it’s easy to see why exercise is wise. And the great thing about exercise is that it’s never too late to start. Even small things can count as exercise when you’re starting out — like taking a short bike ride, walking the dog, or raking leaves.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD Date reviewed: January 2018

Fitness and lifespan: Is too much exercise harmful?

A new, large-scale study finds that even extreme levels of fitness increase lifespan — particularly in older people.

Share on PinterestA new study finds that exercise, even at extreme levels, prolongs life for seniors.

Exercise is widely considered to benefit health, but is there such a thing as too much exercise? Some recent studies suggest so.

For instance, 90 minutes of exercise every day improves mental health, but anything over this threshold is actually worse for mental health than no exercise at all, a recent paper found.

Other research has suggested that there might be cardiovascular disadvantages to excessive amounts of physical exercise.

One study found higher calcification in the arteries of athletes and men who routinely engaged in sports.

So, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio set out to investigate whether large amounts of exercise have any bearing on how long a person will live.

To this end, a team led by Dr. Wael Jaber — a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic — analyzed the link between aerobic fitness and lifespan in 122,007 people.

“We were particularly interested in the relationship between extremely high fitness and mortality,” explains first study author Dr. Kyle Mandsager, an electrophysiology fellow from the Cleveland Clinic.

“This relationship has never been looked at using objectively measured fitness, and on such a large scale.”

The scientists published their results in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open.

Even extreme levels of exercise prolong life

Dr. Jaber and his team retrospectively studied the data from a cohort study of 122,007 people who participated in exercise treadmill testing between January 1, 1991, and December 31, 2014.

The researchers divided the people “by age- and sex-matched cardiorespiratory fitness” into five performance groups: low performance, below average, above average, high, and elite. They determined the aerobic fitness of the participants by administering a stress test.

The fitness levels of people in the elite group were comparable with those of professional athletes, and they were situated at the 97.7th percentile and above.

Their lifespans were adjusted according to their age, sex, and body mass index (BMI), as well as according to the medication they were taking or other conditions that they had.

Overall, higher cardiorespiratory fitness correlated directly with a reduced risk of long-term mortality. Furthermore, the researchers found “no observed upper limit” of the benefits of aerobic fitness.

Also, “Extremely high aerobic fitness was associated with the greatest survival and was associated with benefit in older patients and those with hypertension,” write the researchers.

People ages 70 and above benefited the most from being in the elite group of cardiorespiratory fitness.

By contrast, poor aerobic fitness was just as strong a predictor of early death as smoking, heart disease, or diabetes.

“Cardiorespiratory fitness,” conclude the authors, “is a modifiable indicator of long-term mortality, and healthcare professionals should encourage patients to achieve and maintain high levels of fitness.”

“Aerobic fitness is something that most patients can control. And we found in our study there is no limit to how much exercise is too much Everyone should be encouraged to achieve and maintain high fitness levels.”

Dr. Wael Jaber

About the author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *