Maintaining a healthy weight requires dietary changes which can be effective with or without exercising. However, exercise can reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases and in some cases may be able to replace medication.

Many people exercise to feel better, have more energy, or lose weight. Recent research has indicated there may be even more benefits from exercising including reducing the risk of chronic diseases including cancer. Sitting for long periods of time can have a negative effect. Our society is more sedentary than ever before. Exercise can be an all-natural and effective tool for fighting off disease.

Benefits of Exercise and How it Fights Chronic Disease

Being physically inactive and living a lifestyle that is sedentary are two of the primary causes behind chronic diseases. Regular exercise can act as preventive medicine before you even know you have a chronic disease. However, it is also a good way to manage or reduce symptoms. Here are a few of the most common diseases and how exercising may help.

Heart Disease – Heart disease is one of the most common chronic disease in the US. Exercise can fight heart disease in a number of ways. It can help lower high blood pressure which reduces the strain put on your heart to pump blood. It can also increase good cholesterol which is critical for neurological functions, regulating hormones and repairing scar tissue. When you exercise, circulation improves which means a reduction in the risk of developing blood clots which can lead to heart attacks or strokes.

Diabetes – Close to 10% of all Americans live with diabetes. Exercise may be beneficial for helping manage this chronic condition. When you stay active, your body is able to stabilize blood sugar levels which helps insulin absorb glucose. Muscles are more effective at using glucose than fat is and working out can help prevent higher blood sugar levels. Exercise can also improve circulation which lowers bad cholesterol and helps relieve stress which can cause an increase in glucose.

Musculoskeletal Diseases – These diseases affect the joints, muscles, and skeleton. Arthritis and osteoporosis are two examples. Exercising may put extra weight or stress on your joints so traditionally many thought it led to joint-related conditions. However, regular exercise can increase strength and flexibility as well as reducing the pain commonly associated with musculoskeletal diseases.

Brain Health – Possibly one of the biggest impacts of exercise on reducing disease is by improving your brain health. The brain has a chain reaction on the rest of the body. The brain can trigger signs of inflammation which is the common root of nearly all diseases. Exercising can stimulate chemicals in the brain that cause the growth of brain cells, especially in the hippocampus. That is the section of the brain that is responsible for memory and its decline leads to dementia. The more you exercise, the more the brain produces beneficial chemicals. Research also indicates exercising regularly can help improve the white matter of the brain. Deterioration of white matter can lead to diseases like dementia, sclerosis, or other types of neurodegenerative conditions.

Cancer – Even though there was little research, exercise has been thought to help reduce the risk of common cancers like endometrial, colon and breast cancers. There were not a lot of studies until recently. Current studies have indicated that exercise can help prevent or fight off a wide variety of cancers and not just the most common ones, some of the rarer ones too. Increasing activity levels were found to reduce the risk of developing 13 different kinds of cancer. It can also be beneficial for those who already have a diagnosis of cancer as it can strengthen the body to be able to better stand up under treatments.