Benefits of exercise and physical activity

Why should you be active?

Lack of regular exercise puts you at risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other diseases.

When you exercise on a regular basis, it helps increase your tolerance for activity, and more exercise improves your overall health, and reduces your risk for disease.

Regular exercise also helps you handle and recover from stress.

The American Heart Association recommends moderate exercise for 30 to 60 minutes most days each week.

If you move your body, you will most likely feel better. Even a little is better than none. Recent research suggests that even three 10-minute bursts of exercise can be as beneficial as 30 minutes of exercise at one time, as long as you work hard enough to raise your heart rate.

Activities are things you do each day, such as brushing your teeth, making a meal, doing a hobby, or housework. Exercises are physically exerting activities done to make your muscles, heart and lungs stronger.

Extra fat around your midsection (known as abdominal fat) is dangerous. It can lead to insulin resistance, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides,and other diseases. Exercise helps move fat out of this area.

There are two types of exercise that can help keep you physically healthy:

  • aerobic: Aerobic exercise is a rhythmic, repetitive activity such as walking, swimming and biking that continues for at least 30 minutes. This exercise restores a steady supply of oxygen to the muscles that are being exercised.
  • strength training: Strength training improves your muscle strength and tone, reduces body fat and may reduce pain in your low back. There are several different types of strength training: elastic bands, cuff and hand weights, free weights, wall pulleys, weight machines, yoga and Pilates.

Examples of exercise are:

  • swimming
  • rowing
  • jogging
  • walking
  • biking
  • low-impact aerobics

How does being more active help reduce your risk for developing diabetes?


  • improves your blood glucose level
  • improves how insulin works
  • lowers your blood pressure
  • improves HDL (good cholesterol), and lowers LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides (fats in the bloodstream)
  • burns calories and fat
  • increases your muscle mass, strength and endurance
  • improves your metabolism
  • increases your energy and helps you feel better
  • lowers your stress level

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Prediabetes: Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk Through a Lifestyle of Good Nutrition and Activity, first edition, dia-ah-94403
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education
First Published: 04/02/2009
Last Reviewed: 01/28/2019