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Why Is Exercise Good for You?

Exercise is good for you

photo by mikebaird

There’s a saying, “Use it or lose it.” That’s pretty much why exercise is good for you. But that’s just the short answer. The details of what actually happens in your body are truly amazing and, I think, super motivating. Here’s the the rest of the story you won’t want to miss!

[This article is going to motivate you to exercise more. So here’s the obligatory, but important, cautionary note. If you are going to start an exercise program, you should have the OK from your doctor first to make sure that you don’t have any potential heart or other health issues.]

How Exercise Makes You Stronger and Healthier

The very first day that you start your exercise program, you will be healthier than you were yesterday. Why? Because your body immediately responds to the exercise by building new cells and tissues to support that exercise. It gets ready to better handle the exercise you will do tomorrow. Isn’t that amazing!?

There are several marvelous ways that your body changes when you begin a consistent aerobic exercise program. All of the improvements your body makes increases your VO2 Max, which is a measurement of of your fitness level. Specifically, VO2 Max measures the volume of oxygen a person can consume in one minute exercising at maximum exertion.

Here are the incredible changes you’ll see in your body:


When you train over a period of time your heart will grow in size, allowing it to pump a larger volume of blood with each stroke (or pump). This allows more oxygen to be delivered to all the cells in your body. At the same time, your heart also becomes stronger and more efficient at pumping blood.

Blood Vessels

In response to your muscles needing more oxygen, your body will grow more capillaries to deliver more oxygen faster going forward. Isn’t that cool?! In addition, over time, regular exercise will make your blood vessels become more flexible allowing them to deliver more oxygen rich blood more efficiently. And if that wasn’t enough, the increased blood flow in your blood vessels serves to clean out excess cholesterol, keeping you free of clogs which can cause strokes and heart attacks.

Red Blood Cells

As you exercise each day, your body says, “OK, I get it. You need more oxygen. Alright, turn up the red blood cell production!” As your red blood cell count increases so does your ability to receive more oxygen more efficiently.

Cellular Level

This improvement is very cool too. In each of the cells in your body there are these little power machines called mitochondria. What they do is produce energy by combining oxygen and glucose (or other fuel molecules). This combination produces ATP which is the molecule that gives your cells the energy they need to do their cellular work. When you exercise regularly, guess what happens? Yup, your body creates more and stronger mitochondria in each of your cells, making you more powerful and giving you more endurance for everything in your life! Wow! How exciting is that!?


When you use your muscles beyond what they can handle, either through aerobic exercise or weight bearing exercise, it causes your body to build new muscle tissue. Tiny tears can occur with weight lifting, and when these tears are repaired, this is what causes the muscle to become larger and more defined. Larger, stronger muscles will raise your metabolism making weight management easier.

Your VO2 Max

If you want to test your VO2 max, a simple way to do this is to perform the Rockport Walking Fitness Test. It is well regarded as an accurate way to measure your VO2 max. If you can’t get your heart rate above 120 with fast walking, here is a similar jogging test. (Again these tests should only be done with your doctor’s approval.)

What Kind of Exercise is Best?

The best kind of exercise is the kind you do everyday for 30 minutes, whether consecutive minutes or broken up throughout the day. You should aim for a target heart rate of 55-85% of your max heart rate. Here’s the formula to calculate your maximum heart rate:

Maximum heart rate = 208 – (0.7 X your age in years)

Example: If you are 40 years old, then your maximum heart rate = 208 -(0.7 X 40)= 180.
Moderate activity level would be between 99 – 126 beats per minute.
Strenuous activity level would be between 126 – 153 beats per minute.

So it doesn’t matter if you walk or run, bike or swim, play tennis or rake the yard. As long as you do it everyday and get your heart pumping you will make yourself healthier every day. The only advantage that running has over walking is that you can burn more calories in a shorter period of time. But, the advantage of brisk walking is that it is easier on your joints than running. So just choose whichever activity you like better, and go for it!

Another thing to keep in mind is that you have to stop in the middle of your exercise, don’t fret. As long as you finish it later, it’s fine. You can do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. Everyone has time for that right?

My soon to be released book on healthy living will have more information on healthy exercise. In the meantime, all you need is a pair of sneakers and you’re good to go. Vary your exercise every so often for a new muscular challenge and also for fun. Here are some other aerobic activities you can try:

  • biking
  • cross country skiing
  • swimming
  • tennis
  • strenuous yoga
  • squash
  • hiking
  • kayaking
  • golfing
  • soccer
  • jumping (jump-rope or mini-trampoline)
  • dancing

Additional Exercise Resources

For more information on how exercise improves your fitness level visit Nova/Marathon Challenge.

For more information on how to incorporate exercise into your life without breaking your schedule or too much sweat, check out this excellent book by Harvey B. Simon M.D., associate professor of medicine, Havard Medical School:

Please Share!

What say you? Any exercise testimonials out there? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

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59 Responses to Why Is Exercise Good for You?

  1. scott April 18, 2008 at 5:36 pm #

    hi nice post, i enjoyed it

  2. Mark-Salinas-MN April 21, 2008 at 5:23 am #

    I want to commend you on another great post! I have learned through my work out program, the absolute importance of understanding where my heart rate, Anaerobic base and Anaerobic threshold are. I do 3 workouts a week that include zones 3 and 4 that can last for a full hour.Identifying my VO2 max and understanding my body in relation to my heart rate has been vital to the success of my weight loss.

    Mark Salinas, MN

  3. JBourne April 23, 2008 at 4:42 pm #

    Great info. On your list of aerobic activities, I think you could add the elliptical runner to it. Sure, it’s not the same as running or jump rope, but it’s a great and quick way to get some exercise, improve your heart, and everything else you talked about without putting lots of pressure on your feet and knees. Plus, it’s a great starting point for exercise since it’s a lot easier to do than going outside and trying to jog.

  4. Jay April 23, 2008 at 11:39 pm #

    But it’s so hard to get motivated! Well, luckily I’ve been working out 3-4 times a week. I was in hybernation through the winter lol!


  5. Faraz Ahmed April 24, 2008 at 2:23 am #

    Exercise is the only solution for a healthy body, starting it is the most difficult part but once you get used to it its fun just to exercise.

    I have found that good exercise is very addictive. 🙂

  6. Honey April 24, 2008 at 6:22 am #

    That was in fact great reading. And thank you very much fro motivating me to work out. You may take a look at another article which also motivates you from a different point of view.

  7. rebate processor April 25, 2008 at 9:25 am #

    This is a great post, I appreciate it. I’ve been trying to motivate myself to exercise more, and this is just what I needed.

    I printed this out and will place it next to my exercise stuff, thank you!

  8. agentsully April 25, 2008 at 4:19 pm #

    @Honey – thanks for the support and the link. That’s a good one.

  9. agentsully April 25, 2008 at 4:21 pm #

    @JBourne – You’re so right. If you have access to an elliptical runner, they are great! Thanks for commenting!

  10. agentsully April 25, 2008 at 4:24 pm #

    @Mark – thanks as always for your support and sharing your story too!

  11. gewinnspiel April 26, 2008 at 1:26 am #

    I am not a good commenter. But I must say that really its really a good post. We all knows that exercise is good but in your post some extra information is added. Thanks for sharing.

  12. fahrrad April 26, 2008 at 1:56 am #

    Thanks for the post. very informative. I always try to motivate myself for exercise but all the time i failed. Now i get more inspiration from your post hope this time i’ll win 🙂

  13. Melody Campbell April 26, 2008 at 4:22 pm #

    Great Post! Knowing some of the changes that my body is going through on my way to that new image in the mirror is so inspiring!

    The more I learn about healthy living the more I look at myself and others differently. The look of a persons skin, hair, posture, etc is an indication of how someone is taking care of their body. And Why wouldn’t we? Why do people neglect to educate themselves with what it takes to optimize their living experience? I know the answer is different for everybody – but it’s just a curious thing that as smart as we humans are, how can we be so ignorant when it comes to healthy living.

    I’m glad I found this blog – very enjoyable reading.

  14. agentsully April 27, 2008 at 10:12 am #

    Hi Melody – thank you for sharing your thoughts! And thanks for the compliment! So glad to hear that you like my blog! Thanks!

  15. agentsully April 27, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    Thank you Fahrrad! Good luck! Start small and build upon success!

  16. agentsully April 27, 2008 at 10:13 am #

    @gewinnspiel – thank you for the encouragement!

  17. Patrick April 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm #

    agentsully –

    This post is absolutely spot on!

    I do software development for a living. While I have pretty good practices to protect myself from eye strain and repetitive stress injuries (never had even a slight bout of carpal tunnel!), the one thing I’ve never gone out of my way to include is physical exercise.

    In the past 4 years, I’ve gained approximately 35 pounds. Now, that may not sound like much to many, but consider that my target weight is 165 and it is actually a pretty big difference. I have never been particularly self conscious about my appearance, so I didn’t really bother to take notice until my family began to ask me “have you gained weight?”

    And recently, my girlfriend has begun a pretty strenuous running program and getting involved in races, so eventually I plunged in and started exercising.

    The first day I exercised, I only walked at a moderate pace for about 15 minutes – that’s all I could do because by that point, my legs were so sore that I couldn’t continue. After a couple of days, I quickly realized I needed a decent pair of shoes (which I can’t afford right now, so I’ve switched to a bike and an elliptical to eliminate the strain on my lower legs).

    Even still, for the first few days I couldn’t make it past 15 minutes – I just got too tired.

    That was 3 weeks ago.

    In the past week, I’ve been able to work out for 40 minutes without getting tired, and I’ve begun adding strength training. I haven’t felt this strong and energetic in years and it’s incredible how quickly my body has responded to the exercise. I don’t try to push too hard – I would still consider my workouts only moderate – but I am definitely noticing the benefits already.

    All I can say is, I’m glad I pushed through those first few days when I just wanted to give up and say “it’s not worth it!” To anyone reading this and wishing you could get up and do it, well, just do it! Challenge yourself to get through 1 day. And then 3 days. And then promise yourself to finish out the week and see how you feel. And pretty soon, it won’t be hard anymore and you’ll WANT to get some exercise.

  18. Vickie April 30, 2008 at 12:35 am #

    Thanks for this enlightening article, Agent Sully! Everywhere I go in my daily routine (to the grocery store, bank, etc.), I see so many overweight ladies these days. (I am one of them, but sometimes, by no means as bad.)
    I ask myself, “What are we doing to ourselves in this country?” I have read somewhere (probably on Yahoo) that women have about 20% less muscle mass to begin with than men. (Can’t believe it’s only 20% less.) It’s important to have good muscles, because they burn so much more energy up than fat tissue does (plus, they protect your bones). I SO wish the ladies I see sometimes would read this article and exercise! Unfortunately, some look “past the point of no return,” as in the case of the one lady who had to use a scooter to cross the street. But, I hope not!
    I am WORKING on it! And I thank you & Yahoo for much inspiration!

  19. Rostyslav April 30, 2008 at 4:26 am #

    Very nice well written post…
    I regularly practice Yoga and i find it very useful

  20. agentsully April 30, 2008 at 3:55 pm #

    @Rostyslav – thanks!

  21. agentsully April 30, 2008 at 3:57 pm #

    -thank you both for such meaty comments! I really appreciate you sharing your stories and I wish you both the very best of luck in your exercise pursuits!!! Please stay in touch! I think you might like today’s post too! 🙂

  22. Utah Storage April 30, 2008 at 7:52 pm #

    glad to learn about the heart rate % stuff, i had no idea about that kind of stuff!

  23. nueva york May 3, 2008 at 4:43 am #

    I go three times per week to run about 30 minutes. It´s very relaxing for me.

  24. South Yorkshire Jobssite May 6, 2008 at 3:10 am #

    I always like your post for this type of simple topics.This is very informative.Thanks.

  25. Cirtex May 6, 2008 at 10:53 am #

    It is known to all but people don’t do exercise because it is a matter of maintaining and also a hard work for all.

  26. background checks blog May 12, 2008 at 7:27 am #

    I battle mild depression on occasion, and running is the best medicine for me. It is sometimes tough to get out the door, but I know I feel so much better when I do.

  27. Jag May 14, 2008 at 4:51 pm #

    Good tips especially the part on the list of aerobic activities.

    Personally, I try to lift weights and run 3 times a week. As well as a game of soccer every sunday.

    So far so good for me.


  28. Austin May 19, 2008 at 6:36 pm #

    Getting a good exercise is one of the best medicines out there! I dare anybody who is feeling a little blue to go out and test their body physically… If you are completely out of shape even a really good stretch can do wonders for you physically and mentally. Good post, sometimes I forget to get my 30 minutes of sweat in!

  29. Reiki May 30, 2008 at 11:44 pm #

    I loved this article. I think I knew most of the health benefits but had no idea that even on the cellular level you can greatly enhance your well-being. Great info and well written.

  30. Ben June 12, 2008 at 1:09 pm #

    cool article. i love cycling and martial arts. the thing with exercise is that you have to enjoy the activity to have any chance of remaining consistent.

  31. Koozie Guy June 21, 2008 at 8:15 am #

    Thanks for a nice motivating article, after reading this article plenty of people will start workouts. Even i ll start doing workouts

  32. Britt Phillips July 15, 2008 at 10:38 am #

    You just gotta do it! I finally bought about eight pieces of commercial fitness equipment for my home. I get up at 5:30 am four times a week and simply do it. I feel great afterwards and I get a jump on my day to boot!

  33. agentsully July 17, 2008 at 9:20 pm #

    @Britt – that’s right! Just do it! It really is like getting a “jump” on your day! Great analogy!

  34. Jonpaul July 18, 2008 at 12:25 pm #

    I’m glad you have some good content on oxygen, red blood cells, and VO2. Definitely important and ignored in many posts about exercising.

  35. mercola July 20, 2008 at 11:48 pm #

    healthy foods and proper exercise is equals to a healthy living. nice post 🙂

  36. Aerobics July 30, 2008 at 2:38 am #

    I go three times per week to run about 30 minutes. It´s very relaxing for me.

  37. Bikeboy August 1, 2008 at 5:43 pm #

    This is good info, I just showed it to my gf about why exercise is good for you beyond just losing weight. I did not know about improved circulation as a result of exercise. Thanks for the great info 🙂

  38. agentsully August 12, 2008 at 8:34 pm #

    @Bikeboy – Thanks! Hope your gf likes it!

  39. Patrick August 29, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    I did not know that a simple 30 minutes a day did all of that for my body. That is truely amazing. It really makes me want to put forth that effort to so drastically improve my health.

  40. Yoga Equipment September 1, 2008 at 10:08 am #

    I would also like to share this idea with my gf and i hope this one is very useful.

  41. eurosoccer September 24, 2008 at 11:44 am #

    Makes you feel better, sleep better and it’s fun too 🙂

  42. Diego November 14, 2008 at 6:54 am #

    Great Post! I exercise 5 times a week for about 1-2 hours. I started 7 years ago when I bought a bike, I started to notice huge differences in the way I was feeling before, more energy, better reflexes, and lost some weight.

    Today I’m training 5 times a week doing some riding, jogging, weights, plyometrics, core stability exercises.

    I dont see myself ever stopping and not because of all the benifits but mostly because it is fun!.

    Make sure you have plenty of variety when it comes to exercise and try and cover all fitness components (cardio, weights,cardio endurance, muscle endurance, flexibility etc..) at least once a week.

  43. Eye Disease - Macular Degeneration March 3, 2009 at 8:58 am #

    Great info! Exercise also helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors.

    Thanks for sharing your great information.

  44. healthnut83 May 14, 2009 at 9:35 am #

    Have you watch this video? It’s an instructional work out video where dance and martial arts are combined. Watch and learn easy to perform lower body exercises by watching this video.

    • agentsully May 15, 2009 at 11:16 am #

      @healthnut83 – the video doesn’t seem to work.

  45. Century Program Trainer June 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    great article.

    the best point you made was that you actually only get fitter when your body rebuilds tissues after exercise.

    exercising damages us and rest/recovery is where we get stronger. once you know and understand this then you can work out how to maximize the work and rest to get the best benefit.

    this is where most people get it wrong. i see so many cyclists going out riding hundreds of miles a week and wonder why they are not improving.

    incidentally cycling is great as there is no impact (unlike running etc) and it’s relative low intensity helps you burn fat not carbs so it can help with weight loss too!

    • agentsully June 6, 2009 at 11:13 am #

      @Century Program Trainer – Thank you for the kind words. I found this information fascinating myself and that’s why I wrote about it. Our bodies are meant to be used. There’s nothing more true than “use it or lose it!” 🙂 Cheers and good luck with your cycling and your site!

  46. Neck Exercises October 19, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Great article. Exercises also makes your heart pump more blood at a lower heart rate when you are healthy. Exercise also trains the heart muscle to pump more efficiently.

  47. Mizcash December 1, 2009 at 3:52 am #

    Education is motivation towards the road to healthy living. It is so important to understand what happens to the body when we exercise…..just amazing.

  48. masan February 19, 2010 at 11:30 am #

    wow,,thanks, good article.. tomorrow morning I have to wake up early & start to exercise,,,

  49. Jill - Fitness Equipment September 3, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    I do M-W-F 6k runs and since then I felt so much improvement in my body and even in my outlook in life. Having a healthy body really makes a big difference.

  50. lou May 3, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    I have a question to ask. what exercise is good for a person who is disable and can walk on for a few feet before being out of breath and hurting in the lower back?
    I do have copd and is on oxygen and I am not able to walk very long or do anything that is stressful but would like to get in better health than I am. i am only in my 50’s right now.

    • AgentSully August 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

      Hi Lou – thanks for your question. I would say in your situation to definitely work with your doctor on an exercise plan given your copd. Beyond that some ideas would be light dancing in place – simple movement to music. You could also try walking in place or light stretching to get started. Let us know how that goes for you.

  51. Brady April 23, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    I must say, this is a very inspriational page! I am doing a research paper about “Why Is Fitness Important?”, and reading your stories will help me greatly! Also reading all of the infor from the post above has been great as well!


    • AgentSully May 12, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

      Thanks Brady!!! Glad to help. How did it turn out? What kind of exercise do you like?


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  2. […] 2. Rest your body. Take at least one day off per week. Eat a super healthy diet that gives you the most energy while helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Get enough sleep each night so that your body can make the repairs and build the tissues that will make you stronger tomorrow. Find out more in Why Exercise is Good For You. […]

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