social benefits of physical activity
The social benefits of physical activity are numerous. Exercise can help people feel more connected to their friends, family, and community. It can also improve mental health and cognitive function.
Childhood obesity is a significant public health concern in the United States, but physical activity has been shown to help decrease childhood obesity rates. In addition, improving access to safe places for children to exercise can improve their behavior and mood.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, strength train two or more days a week, perform activities that strengthen the muscles in the core at least twice a week, and do muscle-strengthening exercises that work major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest) three times per week.
Physical activity can reduce symptoms of depression. Physical activity may be even more effective for people who have been identified with mild to moderate depression. Physical activity can also reduce stress and anxiety. It can increase motivation, which can help a person stick to an exercise program.
Healthy bones are essential throughout the lifespan. Some physical activity is needed to maintain healthy bone mass and strength during all stages of life. In contrast, other types of physical activity may be beneficial only in certain stages of life. Also, different sports or activities may be better suited to particular age groups than others.
Although muscle strengthening exercises such as weight lifting and resistance training don’t improve bone density, they strengthen muscles so that the larger muscle groups keep strong enough bones to support themselves when walking or standing up from sitting or lying down. See Physical Activity for Everyone: Bone Health.
People with limited mobility, such as older adults or arthritis, can improve independence and quality of life through regular physical activity. For example, strengthening leg muscles allows an older adult to get up from a chair more easily and walk longer distances.
Regular physical activity has been shown to improve cognition (the way the brain processes information) in children and adults of all ages, including those otherwise healthy or have conditions involving mental health or dementia.
Regular physical activity improves many factors that affect memory and thinking skills, including attention span, executive function (such as decision-making), visuospatial processing (the ability to determine spatial relationships among objects), speed of processing information, working memory (the ability to hold information in mind briefly), and reaction time.
Physical activity also promotes healthy social development. It helps young people interact with their peers, learn teamwork, and develop self-regulation skills (such as self-discipline). Regular physical activity is associated with better school performance for schoolchildren of all ages.
Research suggests that physical activity may benefit older adults’ cognition, including slowing or preventing age-related mental decline; see Physical Activity for Older Adults: Effects on Cognition.
Regular physical activity has been shown to improve sleeping habits by helping to induce sleepiness at night, decreasing insomnia, reducing excessive daytime sleepiness, and increasing alertness during waking hours.
How many types of physical activities?
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Many physical activities are better suited for specific age groups than others. For example, children and adolescents should engage in activities that promote aerobic fitness and bone health, such as running and jumping.
Older adults should focus on strength-training exercises to maintain muscle mass and balance. While most people can benefit from cardiovascular activities such as walking or biking, people with arthritis may find swimming or water aerobics a more comfortable way to get regular exercise.
It is essential to be aware that there are many types of physical activity beyond those typically recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For example, martial arts training can improve balance and coordination, while dancing can improve heart health and joint flexibility.
People who are physically active report fewer days of poor mental health than those who are inactive.
What are some benefits of physical activity?
Physical activity has many benefits for people of all ages. It can help improve cognitive function, mental health, sleep quality, and social development. Additionally, physical activity can help improve school performance and slow or prevent age-related mental decline.
In addition to the benefits listed above, regular physical activity also helps promote independence and a healthy lifestyle.
Is there a specific amount of physical activity that is recommended?
The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity for children and adolescents and at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise for adults.
However, it is essential to note that the benefits of physical activity are dose-dependent, meaning that the more you do, the greater the benefits.
What if I don’t have time for a full workout?
Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, you can still benefit from physical activity. For example, parking further away from your destination or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help you get in some extra training throughout your day.
Alternatively, try breaking up your routine into shorter segments; for example, walk for 10 minutes before work, take a break to do some stretching exercises, and walk home from work. Or, try doing a brisk 10-minute walk on your lunch break.