Why is Exercise Important

Benefits of exercise

Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Study after study shows the benefits it can have. Not only does regular exercise help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of developing diseases, it can help prevent and treat mental health problems. It can boost your wellbeing and mood, and is a great way to unwind from the stresses of life.

Here, we talk through each specific benefit of exercise and give you easy tips to get moving more often.

If you don’t exercise, your muscles will become flabby and weak. Your heart and lungs won’t function efficiently. And your joints will be stiff and easily injured. Inactivity is as much of a health risk as smoking

Exercise tip

To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, walk whenever possible. Think to yourself, can you do a particular journey, or part of that journey, on foot? Think twice before mindlessly hopping into the car. Find ways to add activity to your day – it doesn’t need to be structured exercise. If you already walk, try upping the pace. Weather and work permitting, go for a walk at lunchtime. Even a 15-minute brisk pace is better than sitting by your desk.

Reach your goals

Keeping physically active is great for both your body and your mind. However you like to raise your heart rate, we can help you reach your fitness goals.

Do your shoulders, neck or back ever hurt after a day in the office? It can easily happen when we sit down for a long time – and many of us spend more than seven hours a day doing just that.

These aches and pains can make us more uncomfortable and less productive. People in the UK took a massive 30 million days off work last year because of muscle and bone problems.

An image of a man relaxing at his desk

The good news is: it doesn’t have to be this way. Try these stretches, specially designed for you to do at your desk, to help ease the strain.

1. Seated spinal rotation

  • While seated, cross your arms over your chest.
  • Grab your shoulders.
  • Rotate your upper body from the waist, turning gently from left to right as far as you can.
  • You should feel a tension on both side of your lower back as it stretches out.

An image of a man doing a seated spinal rotation

2. Posterior shoulder stretch

  • Hold one arm across your body.
  • Pull your elbow into your chest.
  • You should feel your shoulder gently stretching.

An image of a person doing a posterior shoulder stretch

3. Shoulder shrugs

  • Gently lift your shoulders.
  • Let them slowly fall.
  • You should feel tension being released as your shoulders drop.

An image of a person doing shoulder shrugs

4. Sitting back extensions

  • Sit straight with your feet together.
  • Put the palms of your hands into the small of your back.
  • Lean back over your hands, feeling your lower back stretch out.

An image of a person doing a back stretch

5. Neck rotations

  • Keep your head upright.
  • Gently turn your head from side to side.
  • As you turn your head, try to move it past your shoulder.
  • You should feel the muscles on the outside of your neck gradually stretching.

An image of a man doing neck rotations

6. Upper shoulder and neck stretch

  • Sit on one hand.
  • Tilt your head away from the hand you’re sitting on.
  • Tilt your head slightly forward, towards your shoulder.
  • You should feel the muscles in your neck and shoulder being stretched.
  • Change sides, and repeat.

An image of a person doing an upper trapezius stretch

7. Shoulder extension – one

  • Stand up and stretch your arms out behind you.
  • Clasp your hands together and gently lift your arms.
  • You should feel the pressure in your shoulders ease off.

An image of a person doing a shoulder stretch

8. Shoulder extension – two

  • Hold both arms above your head.
  • Link your hands with your palms facing upwards.
  • Reach as high as possible.
  • You should feel your shoulders stretching.

An image of a person doing a shoulder stretch

Also – are you sitting comfortably?

Stretching at your desk can work wonders, but it’s even more important to be set up comfortably at your desk. This can prevent back pain among other problems. Here’s a handy reminder.

  • Keep your chair close to your desk.
  • Adjust the height and make sure your feet are fully on the floor.
  • The top of your computer screen should be level with your eyes, and about an arms-length away from you.

An image of a person sitting at a desk

Perfect your pose

1. Your hips should be above your knee.
2. Sit right back in your seat, so your whole back is supported.
3. The natural curve of your lower back should fit against the curve of the back rest.
4. The back rest should be slightly reclined (10–15 degrees).
5. Relax your shoulders, and keep your elbows at 90 degrees, just above the desk.

An image showing how your chair should be set up for working at a desk

Keep things within reach

This might sound obvious, but many of us forget to do it: arrange your desk so that things you use often are easy to grab. Otherwise, if you need to lean across your desk a lot, you won’t get the same back support from your chair.

An image showing how your desk should be set up at work

Take a break

  • For every five minutes of intense work at your computer, have a short pause. Stretch your hands, wrists and fingers. Roll your shoulders and rotate your neck.
  • Give your eyes a break every 20 minutes, by looking into the distance for 20 seconds.
  • Every half hour or so, stand up, stretch and move for 20–30 seconds.
  • Keep alert by doing gentle exercises every two hours.

An image of a clock

If you have any neck or back pain, your GP or physiotherapist can give you more advice and support.


Even healthy people become unwell sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance.

Helps Prevent Diseases

Our bodies were meant to move — they actually crave exercise. Regular exercise is necessary for physical fitness and good health. It reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. It can improve your appearance and delay the aging process.

Improves Stamina

When you exercise, your body uses energy to keep going. Aerobic exercise involves continuous and rhythmic physical motion, such as walking and bicycling. It improves your stamina by training your body to become more efficient and use less energy for the same amount of work. As your conditioning level improves, your heart rate and breathing rate return to resting levels much sooner from strenuous activity.

Strengthens and Tones

Exercising with weights and other forms of resistance training develops your muscles, bones and ligaments for increased strength and endurance. Your posture can be improved, and your muscles become more firm and toned. You not only feel better, but you look better, too!

Enhances Flexibility

Stretching exercises are also important for good posture. They keep your body limber so that you can bend, reach and twist. Improving your flexibility through exercise reduces the chance of injury and improves balance and coordination. If you have stiff, tense areas, such as the upper back or neck, performing specific stretches can help “loosen” those muscles, helping you feel more relaxed.

Controls Weight

Exercise is also a key to weight control because it burns calories. If you burn off more calories than you take in, you lose weight. It’s as simple as that.

Improves Quality of Life

Once you begin to exercise regularly, you will discover many more reasons why exercise is so important to improving the quality of your life. Exercise reduces stress, lifts moods, and helps you sleep better. It can keep you looking and feeling younger throughout your entire life.

How Often Should I Exercise?

The benefits of any exercise program will diminish if it’s disrupted too frequently. A “stop-start” routine is not only ineffective, but can cause injuries. Being consistent with exercise, therefore, is probably the most important factor in achieving desired results.

People often assume that more is better. Wrong! Doing too much too soon or performing intense exercises on a daily basis will have deleterious effects, such as muscle/tendon strains, loss of lean tissue, and fitness-level plateaus.

Cardio

If you are a beginner, start off slower than you think you should. Three days per week is realistic, safe and effective. If you are experienced, do cardiovascular (aerobic) exercises such as walking, jogging and bicycling for no more than 200 minutes per week with no more than 60 minutes per session.

Lifting Weights

Weight training should be done no more than three times per week targeting the same muscle groups. Exercise the same muscle groups on non-consecutive days because muscles need adequate time to recover and cannot be effectively trained if they are tired or sore.

Stretching

Many people forget to stretch or make the excuse that they don’t have the time. Flexibility is important, so make the time! Stretching can be done every day, but stick to a minimum of three times per week in order to reap the benefits. When the body is warmed up, such as after a workout session, perform five to 10 stretches that target the major muscle groups. Hold each stretch for 10-30 seconds.

How Regular Exercise Benefits Teens

You keep your skin clean. You condition your hair. You’re eating right. You’re doing all you can to look and feel great. But are you missing out on an important part of a healthier lifestyle?

No matter what your age or shape, you should exercise daily. Not only does exercise tone your body so you can wear your favorite jeans, it strengthens your muscles, keeps your bones strong, and improves your skin. And there are more benefits of exercise — increased relaxation, better sleep and mood, strong immune function, and more. Let’s look at some of the incredible benefits of exercise then talk about how you can get started.

Exercise and Your Weight

Because exercise helps use up oxygen, it causes your body to burn stored fat and helps you maintain a normal weight. For instance, if you walk 4 miles a day four times a week, you can burn about 1,600 calories or nearly half a pound a week. If you don’t change your diet at all and keep walking the same distance over six months, you’ll lose 12 pounds. Walk the same distance for a year and you’ll drop 24 pounds.

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The neat thing about exercise is you don’t have to do it all at one time. After all, not many teens have time to walk 4 miles after school. But you can do 4 miles in short bursts throughout your day. Here’s an idea of how to work that much exercise into your daily routine:

  • Take a 1-mile walk on a treadmill before school. Then, take a 1-mile walk around the track during school lunch period.
  • Take a 1-mile walk after school with friends or the family dog.
  • Take a 1-mile walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite show before dinner.

If you stay with the walking program, you’ll see benefits with:

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 produce endorphins, chemicals that can help a person to feel more peaceful and happy. Exercise can help some 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.
  • Exercising can help you look better. People who exercise burn more calories and look more toned than those who don’t. In fact, exercise is one of the most important parts of keeping your body at a healthy weight.
  • Exercise helps people lose weight and lower the risk of some diseases. Exercising to maintain a healthy weight decreases a person’s risk of developing certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases, which used to be found mostly in adults, are becoming more common in teens.
  • Exercise can help a person age well. This may not seem important now, but your body will thank you later. Women are especially prone to a condition called osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones) as they get older. Studies have found that weight-bearing exercise — like jumping, running, or brisk walking — can help girls (and guys!) keep their bones strong.

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