Physical benefits of exercise

Last week we have shared with you the mental benefits of physical exercise and as promised with this post we are focusing on the physical benefits. Physical activity or exercise acts in different ways on our body, for example by training the cardiovascular system, maintaining or improving muscle strength and flexibility, supporting balance, stimulating the proper functioning of joints and bones, and other benefits. When it comes to exercise, the basic distinction is between aerobic and resistance training. The former focuses on activities getting your heart rate up for a prolonged time, and includes many different muscle groups, as for example in running, cycling or dancing. On the other hand, resistance exercise typically comes in short bursts of activity, focusing on particular muscle groups, as for example in weight lifting or push-ups. Not all type of exercises have the same beneficial effects. In the following sections I highlight some important effects on physical health and to which type of physical exercise they are related.



Aerobic exercises or cardio training aim at strengthening the cardiovascular system, i.e. the functioning of the heart and blood vessels. Numerous studies confirm that physical exercise reduces the risk of premature death and cardiovascular diseases [1]. Moreover, patients who already suffer from these conditions can benefit from physical exercise as well. As it was found concluded from the analysis of several studies (meta-study) that exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation significantly reduces cardiac and total mortality [2].

Diabetes mellitus / Diabetes type 2

Physical exercise, aerobic as well as resistance training were shown to reduce the risk for diabetes type 2 in many studies [1,3]. Furthermore, this reduction appears to be dose-dependent, meaning the higher the physical activity, the lower the risk for diabetes [3]. Patients suffering from diabetes type 2 can benefit from physical exercise as well, be it aerobic or resistance. By being physically active, patients with diabetes can lower their risk for premature death and also improve glucose homeostasis [1].


Beneficial effects of physical exercise have also been shown for the risk of different cancer types. For example, a study analysing young breast cancer patients (40 years or younger) and matched healthy control women found that the amount physical exercise before diagnosis was a significant predictor of reduced breast cancer risk [4]. A meta-analysis studied the relationship between physical activity and cancer risk  and confirmed protective effects against breast and also colon cancer [5]. Physical exercise does not only decrease the risk to acquire certain types of cancer, but it can also improve survival after diagnosis [6].


Resistance exercise seems to be particularly beneficial for the maintenance of bone mineral density [1]. For example, a study in middle-aged and older men analysed results from trials which included walking, resistance training and their combination and found resistance training to be particularly helpful for bone mineral density, while the effect of walking was limited [7]. A meta-study examined results from controlled trials in women [8]. They found that exercise training programs prevented or reversed almost 1% of bone loss per year in the lumbar spine and femoral neck.


Physical activity and exercise can therefore have serious implications for health, reducing the risk of different diseases and ailments. Furthermore, even for patients suffering from medical conditions, physical activity can result in better health status. Regarding the duration of physical activity, the Swiss government for example recommends the following [9]: For adults up to 65 years, 2.5 hours of physical activity  with intermediary intensity or 1.25 hours of high intensity exercises per week. Activities with intermediary intensity moderately accelerate breathing, while high intensity ones produce sweating as well. Further the recommendation emphasizes that the physical activities should include cardio and resistance training as well as stretching to maintain flexibility.

I hope you liked this post and may have found some additional motivation to exercise. Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog to receive weekly notifications about our most recent posts!

Stay active 🙂



[1] Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W. & Bredin, S. S. D. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. CMAJ 174, 801–809 (2006).

[2] Taylor, Rod S., et al. “Exercise-based rehabilitation for patients with coronary heart disease: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” The American journal of medicine 116.10 (2004): 682-692.

[3] Aune, D., Norat, T., Leitzmann, M., Tonstad, S., & Vatten, L. J. (2015). Physical activity and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis.

[4] Bernstein, L., Henderson, B. E., Hanisch, R., Sullivan-Halley, J., & Ross, R. K. (1994). Physical exercise and reduced risk of breast cancer in young women. Journal of the National Cancer institute, 86(18), 1403-1408.

[5] Friedenreich, C. M., & Orenstein, M. R. (2002). Physical activity and cancer prevention: etiologic evidence and biological mechanisms. The Journal of nutrition, 132(11), 3456S-3464S.

[6] Haydon, A. M., MacInnis, R. J., English, D. R., & Giles, G. G. (2006). Effect of physical activity and body size on survival after diagnosis with colorectal cancer. Gut, 55(1), 62-67.

[7] Bolam, K. A., Van Uffelen, J. G., & Taaffe, D. R. (2013). The effect of physical exercise on bone density in middle-aged and older men: a systematic review. Osteoporosis International, 24(11), 2749-2762.

[8] Wolff, I., Van Croonenborg, J. J., Kemper, H. C. G., Kostense, P. J., & Twisk, J. W. R. (1999). The effect of exercise training programs on bone mass: a meta-analysis of published controlled trials in pre-and postmenopausal women. Osteoporosis international, 9(1), 1-12.

[9] Bundesamt für Sport – Bewegungsempfehlungen


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