Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Benefits of Exercise

        Health | Exercise

Overview

Everyone knows that regular physical activity can strengthen your muscles and improve your endurance. But your heart, a muscle, can also benefit from physical activity. In fact, exercise helps protect against heart disease and reduces symptoms in people who already have heart disease.

Regular physical activity can lower triglycerides and help raise HDL cholesterol. When it results in weight loss, physical activity can also play a key role in managing the metabolic syndrome and reducing LDL cholesterol. Moreover, it reduces the risk of other chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure -- risk factors for coronary heart disease -- as well as osteoporosis and some cancers. Physical activity is an integral part of an overall healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and not smoking, that can lower your risk of heart disease.

Exercise benefits the body in a number of ways. Most importantly, it improves aerobic capacity (the body's ability to take in and use oxygen during exercise), and it increases muscular strength. Both aerobic exercise and resistance training promote physical fitness and benefit your heart and overall health.

To learn more about these and other types of exercise, see the next page.