The Importance of Exercise

The Importance of Exercise

Exercise and Chronic Disease


According to the Department of Health one-third of Australia’s chronic disease burden was due to physical inactivity in 2011 resulting in coronary heart disease (33.6%), followed by dementia (18% of total physical inactivity burden), diabetes (16%), bowel cancer (13%) and stroke (12%).

  • Source: Global Health Risks: mortality ad burden of disease attributable to selected major risks. World Health Organization, 2009.


They also went on to say the seven diseases most closely linked to physical inactivity were diabetes, bowel and uterine cancer, dementia, breast cancer, coronary heart diseases and stroke.


If you think you need to get more exercise, take our Exercise Body Signals Test


If you would like to check out our YouTube playlists which include a range of varied exercises from Yoga to Full Body Workouts with Weights, you can find the playlists here.  It’s a great option if you understand the importance of exercise but don’t have time to go to the gym.  You can do a workout whenever you have a few minutes to spare

The Australian Department of Health’s guidelines for physical activity for 18-64-year-olds is:

  • Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
  • Do muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.

The Australian 2018 Physical Activity Health Study conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare found:

“48% of adults aged 18–64 met the physical activity guideline and 24% met the strength-based activity guideline”


So, is that a good figure or not?  The best indication of our activity is to compare against the rest of the world. Researchers from  The World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted a worldwide review of physical activity and pooled studies from 2001 to 2016 which included 358 surveys across 168 countries which included 1·9 million participants.  The conclusions were:

  • Australia ranked 97 out of 168
  • Globally, 1 in 4 adults is not active enough.


The World Health Organisation stresses the importance of exercise. Below is their view:

  • “Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for death worldwide.
  • Insufficient physical activity is a key risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
  • Physical activity has significant health benefits and contributes to prevent NCDs.”

The Importance of Exercise

We all know exercise is good for us but let’s look at what the studies have shown.

World Health Organization (WHO) ranked physical inactivity as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality, i.e. 6% of deaths globally [16]. It has been estimated that 21-25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes, and approximately 30% of ischaemic heart disease burden can be attributed to physical inactivity.

Exercise and chronic disease

The University of British Columbia conducted a review of the health benefits of physical activity and concluded that:

“We confirm that there is irrefutable evidence of the effectiveness of regular physical activity in the primary and secondary prevention of several chronic diseases (e.g., cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression and osteoporosis) and premature death.”


The World Cancer Research Fund states in their Research. WCRFiAwAIfC. 2014. Continuous Update Project Report: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Breast Cancer Survivors World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research:

Physical activity has an effect on several bodily systems including endocrinologic, immunologic and metabolic processes which can, in turn, affect the risk for development of several cancers. Being physically active also helps to maintain a healthy weight and protect against cancer”

Exercise reduces pain

A study conducted by the University of North Carolina found that exercise can assist patients with chronic pain conditions.  They concluded:

When applied to chronic pain conditions within appropriate parameters (frequency, duration, intensity), physical activity significantly improves pain and related symptoms”

A study in the Netherlands found that exercise reduced knee pain. The review investigated 31 heterogeneous trials consisting of 1690 participants with patellofemoral pain (the most common cause of knee pain ) and concluded:

exercise therapy for PFPS,” [Patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS) resulted in] “reduction in pain and improvement in functional ability, as well as enhancing long-term recovery

A study conducted by the University of NSW in 2014, found that people who exercise regularly have a higher pain threshold than others.


Exercise and Lower Back Pain

A literature review 21 different randomised clinical trials, which include 30 850 unique participants found that

“exercise alone or in combination with education is effective for preventing lower back pain”

Exercise and stress

A review of 169 studies from Yale University concluded:

Preliminary evidence suggests that combining stress management programming with exercise interventions may allay stress-related reductions in PA,


Exercise and Insomnia

A study of 48 individuals was conducted by the Unversity of San Paulo with chronic insomnia completed a 6-month exercise training protocol, randomized to morning and late-afternoon exercise groups.  they concluded:

Acute moderate-intensity aerobic exercise reduced pre-sleep anxiety and improved sleep for chronic insomnia


Exercise and Appetite

Exercise has been proven to subside the appetite produce hormone ghrelin in a study conducted by Loughborough University and concluded:

“For those desiring weight loss there may be some merit in performing exercise in the postprandial period as a means of enhancing the satiating effect of a meal”  


Exercise and Workplace productivity and mood

A study conducted by of with 201 volunteer respondents by the University of Bristol, across three workplaces (two private companies, one public service organisation) were purposefully selected for their provision of on‐site exercise facilities, size (>250 employees) and large proportion of sedentary occupations. Two mood diary questionnaires were distributed to employees exercising on‐site only.

The study concluded that mood improved on exercise days, pre‐to‐post exercise and work performance indicators were higher on exercise days versus no exercise days NExD. Positive changes in performance outcomes were almost exclusively linked to changes in mood

Exercise and the Gut

The University of Gothenburg conducted a review of irritable bowel syndrome and physical exercise concluded that “Physical activity is associated with improved IBS symptoms and psychological parameters in the long term”


Exercise and Memory

A study conducted by the University of Maryland on 26 adults aged between 55 and 85 years suggests that exercise may improve memory

So how much exercise it good?

Well, it depends on what you want to accomplish.  In a trial conducted by the Cooper Institue in Dallas, 201 female participants were assigned to a standard behavioural weight loss program, which included regular group meetings and telephone calls, and caloric and dietary fat restrictions. Participants were given meal plans and kept weekly food diaries. The participants had a BMI of 27 to 40 and were assigned one of four groups:

  1. vigorous intensity/high duration,
  2. moderate intensity/high duration,
  3. moderate intensity/moderate duration, and
  4. vigorous intensity/moderate duration


The mean weight loss after 1 year was 8.9, 8.2, 6.3, and 7.0 kg respectively for each group.

The conclusion after 12 months was overweight women lost weight and improved cardiorespiratory fitness in a year-long combined dietary and exercise regimen. The duration of exercise (at least 150 min/week of walking) was more important than vigorous versus moderate intensity in achieving these goals.

The benefits of Yoga

The University of Mississippi explored the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase the quality of life and concluded:

“Yoga encourages one to relax, slow the breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system and the flight-or-fight response to the parasympathetic system and the relaxation response.[] The latter is calming and restorative; it lowers breathing and heart rate, decreases blood pressure, lowers cortisol levels, and increases blood flow to the intestines and vital organs”

“One of the main goals of yoga is to achieve tranquility of the mind and create a sense of well-being, feelings of relaxation, improved self-confidence, improved efficiency, increased attentiveness, lowered irritability, and an optimistic outlook on life.[] The practice of yoga generates balanced energy which is vital to the function of the immune system.[] Yoga leads to an inhibition of the posterior or sympathetic area of the hypothalamus. This inhibition optimizes the body’s sympathetic responses to stressful stimuli and restores autonomic regulatory reflex mechanisms associated with stress.”

A number of studies demonstrate the potential beneficial effects of yoga interventions on depression, stress, and anxiety.[,,]

Numerous studies have shown that asana, meditation or a combination of the two reduced pain in people with arthritis, Carpel Tunnel syndrome, back pain and other chronic conditions.[,,,] Yoga also increases proprioception and improves balance

Yoga increases blood flow and levels of haemoglobin and red blood cells which allows for more oxygen to reach the body cells, enhancing their function.[] Yoga also thins the blood which can decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke, as they are often caused by blood clots

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