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What happens to your body when you exercise?

What happens to your body when you exercise?

Starting a new exercise routine may seem overwhelming, but regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

When beginning to exercise, studies show that changes can occur to the body’s heart, muscles, fat, bones and even the brain. Exercise also helps to maintain a healthy weight and increases the chances of living longer.

“Start with five to ten minutes a day of aerobic exercise and work up to 30 minutes five days a week over the course of a few weeks,” says Dr. Dory Jarzabkowski, a cardiologist with the Advocate Heart Institute at BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill. “Some simple aerobic exercises include swimming, bicycling, walking, jogging or running.”

The CDC lists some of the major health benefits to starting an exercise routine:

Regular aerobic exercise (about 150 minutes per week) can lower a person’s risk for heart attack and stroke. Exercise has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as the risk for heart disease.

Muscles and fat

Endurance training, such as running or lifting weights, encourages the body to use stored fat as a source of energy. Exercise increases muscle mass, which in return causes more calories to be burned while at rest. An increase in muscle and a decrease in body fat can help you achieve a lower body mass index and leaner figure.


Performing weight-bearing exercises can increase bone density. As you move, your muscles pull on the bones, and the pulling stimulates an increase in bone density. Regular physical activity can also help manage arthritis pain and other joint conditions.

Physical activity can help keep thinking, learning and judgment skills sharp as a person ages. It can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety while improving overall mood and feelings of well-being. Exercise can also promote better sleep.

“Don’t become discouraged if you don’t lose weight; muscle weighs more than fat,” says Dr. Jarzabkowski. “As you become more toned, you will notice changes like your clothes becoming looser, even if the scale does not show much difference.”

Regular exercise has many positive short- and long-term health benefits.

The CDC lists some tips for starting a new exercise routine:

  • Start slowly. Begin with moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, and gradually increase the level of activity.
  • Talk to your doctor. If you have a chronic health condition, talk to your physician to find out if the condition limits you in any way.
  • Get active. A sedentary lifestyle poses many potential health risks. Even a few minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity is better than nothing.

“Water exercises are a great way to become active,” says Dr. Jarzabkowski. “Water walking, water aerobics and swimming are all excellent choices for people with arthritis.”

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