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9 Hidden Health Benefits of Exercise

by Darryl Edwards
Home/Blog/Protect Your Mental Wellbeing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Food is often the primary focus when it comes to the Paleo lifestyle, but as the great man Hippocrates once said, “eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise“. This quote is as relevant today as it ever was.

It isn’t just what we put into our body that promotes health, but also what we do with our body in terms of physical activity. Exercise is medicine; evidence suggests even small doses extend longevity and prevent disease.

Here are nine solid reasons as to how exercise makes you healthier.

1. Inflammation

Although exercise in the short-term has an inflammatory effect on the body (such as muscle soreness), long-term exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect with reductions in levels of inflammatory markers such as CRP (C-Reactive Protein). This is a significant health benefit since chronic systemic inflammation is a feature of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. By reducing inflammation, then, a programme of regular exercise makes it easier for your body to deal with factors linked to chronic disease.

Research states that people who exercise regularly show fewer signs of inflammation, and that’s good for keeping many diseases at bay.

2. Gut Flora

Regular activity can encourage the right types of gut flora to thrive in your intestinal tract, while a lack of activity has the opposite effect. And these gut microbes could play a significant role in whole body health.

The latest research discusses the influence exercise has on the gut microbiome. The fitter you are, the more likely you are to have diverse gut flora. A number of studies have shown that people with vast and diverse microbe populations in their gastrointestinal tracts tend to be less prone to health issues than people with low microbial diversity.

3. Cortisol

Exercising on a regular basis can also help you manage the effects of stress by regulating the release of cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress. The body perceives moderate-to-intense exercise as a stress to the system and will temporarily release cortisol during a typical workout as a response. After exercising, however, the levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol drop, and stress and anxiety fade away.

Exercise, especially at low-intensity, calms your body and your brain from a general lowering of cortisol. Bear in mind doing too much endurance or long bursts of high-intensity training can substantially increase cortisol production especially if you are already under a lot of stress.

4. Mood

Every time you work out, your body produces feel-good hormones that help to deliver feelings of euphoria both during and after exercise. Endorphins make you feel exhilarated and are a natural pain reliever, so you can power through any discomfort caused by exercising. In fact, some people report getting a “runner’s high” after a particularly challenging workout, but you can start to feel better within a few minutes of moving.

Exercise also releases dopamine, which is known as the “pleasure hormone.” This is one reason why it is easier to follow exercise regimens that provide a pleasurable and enjoyable experience.

Furthermore, exercise releases serotonin, a chemical responsible for happiness, healthy appetite, and a good night’s sleep. Serotonin works in concert with endorphins, ensuring that working out is an enjoyable experience.

5. Sleep Quality

Exercise can help you sleep better at night. Numerous studies have shown that exercise can lead to better sleep patterns and improvement for people with sleep disorders including insomnia. That’s because exercise improves your mood and reduces stress, making it easier for you to get a good night’s sleep.

Studies have shown that physical activity during the daytime may stimulate longer periods of the deepest and most restorative stages of sleep.

6. Blood Glucose

Exercise can be key to managing your blood sugar. Whenever your muscles contract, they use sugar in your blood stream (known as blood glucose) as their primary source of energy. As a result, blood sugar levels drop after exercise and are lower for the next 24 to 48 hours. It’s easy, then, to see the direct correlation between physical activity and blood glucose levels: being more physically active can lower your blood glucose in the short-term.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose levels. And, over a longer period, regular exercise can reduce your blood sugar levels by improving insulin’s ability to do its work. That’s because your insulin sensitivity is increased after exercise, so your body is better able to absorb glucose after activity. In short, your body becomes more efficient at controlling blood glucose and reduces your risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

7. Lipid Profile

Exercise helps to improve your cholesterol ratios by increasing your high-density lipoprotein (HDL), lowering your low-density lipoprotein (LDL), lipoprotein A and lowering your triglycerides reducing your cardiovascular risk. It also increases the size of the protein particles that carry cholesterol through the blood. These interlocking groups of protein particles and cholesterol are better if they are big and fluffy rather than small and dense. The smaller and denser they are, the more likely they will squeeze into the linings of the heart and your blood vessels increasing cardiovascular risk.

8. Blood Pressure

Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the term for abnormally high blood pressure. Chronic hypertension is known as the world’s biggest ‘silent killer’, as it has no visible signs or symptoms. It is one of the most common causes of premature death and disability, as it can lead to strokes and heart and kidney failure.

Exercise is an effective way to slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure. This happens in two ways: First, the arteries widen due to exercise allowing the blood to flow through more freely. Second, the stronger the heart gets through exercise, the better its ability to pump blood through the arteries, lowering blood pressure.

9. Brain Health

Research tells us that regular physical activity can improve cognitive function for children as well as provide benefits that continue throughout every stage of life.

Young adults who participate in aerobic activity preserve their memory and cognitive ability for middle age. Physically active middle-aged individuals protect themselves from dementia in older age. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is released during exercise and stimulates the growth of new brain cells (neurogenesis).


Based on the above nine health benefits, it’s easy to see that a programme of regular exercise can have significant implications for health that may not be obvious at first glance. You’ll experience less stress, be in a better mood, improve your health, and sleep soundly at night too. Movement is medicine!

If you are looking for healthy, fun and effective movement sessions come and join me at Paleo f(x)™ 2016 for my Primal Play Method, Animal Walk and Primal Intensity workshops.


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The Paleo movement incorporates several different optimizing perspectives for helping you improve your health, all based on the latest science. Everyone is different. We want to support you in understanding your unique genetic makeup, symptoms and health goals so you can choose the path that is right for you.

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Darryl Edwards

Darryl Edwards, MSc. owner of Fitness Explorer Training, is an international speaker, certified personal trainer, nutritional therapist, and award-winning author of Paleo Fitness and July 2015 book release Paleo from A to Z.