Exercise for more than weight loss

Many times appearance and weight loss are prime motivators for increasing exercise. However, regular physical activity offers numerous benefits that stretch beyond weight and appearance, including:

  • Improved heart health (lower blood pressure and resting heart rate)
  • Improved cholesterol and blood glucose levels
  • Improved  mood and self-confidence
  • Can be as effective as medication for treatment of anxiety, depression, ADD, and ADHD
  • Effective tool for stress and anger management
  • Improved quality and quantity of sleep; increased energy
  • Increased levels of creativity, concentration, efficiency, and memory retention = academic success!
  • Decreased risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer

Exercise does so much good for one’s overall health, regardless of weight. Additionally, the literature is clear that if individuals swap the priority of weight/appearance for honoring and sustaining health, they are much more likely to maintain their physical activity routines over the long-term and experience more enjoyment from it.

What forms of movement do you enjoy? What forms allow you to be consistent? Be adventurous, incorporate variety, find balance, and set goals. Seek assistance from an exercise professional if you need guidance on what forms of physical activity may be right for you. Focus on progress, not perfection.

How much physical activity do I need to achieve?

As a guide, individuals should aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on at least five days of the week or 25 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity on three days of the week, or a combination of the two. If weight loss is desired, it is recommended to gradually build up to at least 45 to 90 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity up to six days per week or at least 200 minutes per week. Examine your current level of fitness and take small steps to increase your physical activity in ways that work for you.

Strength training activities such as lifting weights, using weight machines, and other equipment or performing calisthenics like push-ups, crunches, and Pilates is beneficial for one’s overall health, functional strength, and boosting the metabolism. Aim for two or more days per week working eight to ten different muscle groups for at least 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions.

Because muscle is more dense than fat, weight is not always an accurate portrait of one’s health gains from exercising. Find other measures to gauge progress such as heart health, strength, flexibility, aerobic endurance, energy levels, sleep, etc. Keep a journal to mark all the positives you notice when you move your body.

To achieve and maintain a healthy body (and weight), physical activity is important. However, it is also key to find balance in nutrition, sleep, stress management, and find support from friends, family, and campus resources. 

University of Iowa students can schedule an appointment with a provider at Student Health and Wellness online through their MyChart account or by calling 1-319-335-8394.
Last reviewed: 
August 2017

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