Most of us know that exercise helps with fitness, strength, energy, weight-control, health, future health (=health risk), etc. The evidence behind all of these benefits is overwhelming and the benefits are really not in doubt. You knew that didn’t you? OK, but let’s think about a few less-obvious but very-real benefits associated with exercise and active living – some of these may be news to you…..

Happiness – active people are happier and less prone to depression. This is backed by many published research studies. So much so that exercise is an important part of the treatment of depression (getting active improves mood). Feeling low? Maybe it’s time to get moving a bit more.

Balance – active people are stronger (of course) but also more balanced. The important part of this is that being more balanced reduces the risk of falls & injuries. Want to avoid a broken hip from a fall? Maybe you should get out and do some walking.

Recovery – the fitter you are the better your body can recover from injury. This is due to improved strength, better circulation, better balance, and more. It’s a very real thing.

A personal story here if you’ll allow: I am 54 years old as I write this. Nine months ago I had a nasty motorbike accident and sustained a tibial plateau fracture (horrific broken leg and a destroyed knee) that required a 4 hour operation, 10 days in hospital and a 12-month rehab programme that I am still working on (decades ago this sort of injury often required amputation). I have done fairly well – I am on my feet (limping still), can ride a bicycle again, can drive, can go shopping, can kayak, and I have very little pain. My orthopaedic surgeon and my physiotherapist see this sort of injury quite a bit and they both tell me that had I been sedentary, or overweight, or just plain unfit, I might still be on crutches or even in a wheelchair (or worse). As it happened I was fit and active (I was doing 5-6 hours exercise a week at the time of my injury) and have done well. This is a sobering and all-too-real example of how active living helps us in surprising ways (and it is motivating me to stay active because I am very likely to need a knee replacement in a few years so I best be ready to recover well from that too).

Anti-ageing – you’ll often hear people speak about getting less active as and because they are getting older. There are some inescapable realities here (age is a ******* aint it!?) but for most people most of the time, it is in fact the opposite: we “age” because we get inactive. Think about some people you know who are over 50 or over 60 or over 70 – we’re pretty sure that almost all the “young for their age” folks are the physically active ones, while the clearly-ageing folks are the less-active. Now, if you know them well, or listen to them carefully, we’re sure you’ll see that getting inactive came FIRST, in most cases. The truth is that we age when we get inactive and we age because we get inactive. It’s a generalization and there will be exceptions, but it holds true, for most of us.

Written by Colin Burns

Active living is so very good for us. For all of us. Most of know this and we understand the main benefits too. But here are a few less-well-known benefits associated with exercise. We’re sure you can think of some more, or perhaps you have stories to share (like mine above) so please comment below.