Do you have difficulty finding time to exercise? Perhaps you are too busy or too tired. Maybe you don’t enjoy exercising at all. Chances are it is a combination.

You are not alone. In fact, up to 75 per cent of Singaporeans do not exercise regularly, as shown in a recent National Health Surveillance Survey.

Not allocating time for fitness doesn’t just lead to a bigger waistline, it could quite literally kill you

According to a worldwide study published in The Lancet in 2012, lack of physical activity could be responsible for:

  • 10 per cent of breast cancer cases
  • 10 per cent of colon cancer cases
  • 9 per cent of premature deaths due to any cause
  • 7 per cent of type 2 diabetes cases
  • 6 per cent of coronary heart disease cases

“Physical inactivity seems to have an effect similar to that of smoking or obesity. Adopting an active lifestyle is thus one of the best investments you could make in your own health,” says Ms Cindy Ng Li Whye, Principal Physiotherapist at the Department of Physiotherapy and LIFE Centre, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Beyond fending off major death-causing diseases, exercise can confer many additional benefits. Read on and be convinced!

Benefits of exercise

  1. More effective weight loss
  2. While dieting is the cornerstone of any weight loss plan, combining dieting with regular exercise will give you a potent way to shed excess kilos.

    Furthermore, exercise is the best predictor of weight loss maintenance. It not only burns calories, but also increases metabolism. This is especially true for muscle-strengthening exercises. Simply put, the more muscle you have, the more calories your body burns – even when you are at rest.

  3. A great way to relieve stress
  4. Regular exercise, even if light, has proven to be an effective way to de-stress. This is because when exercising, feel-good brain chemicals called endorphins are released, helping to combat anxiety and depression.

    In many cases, exercise can be as effective as antidepressants. By exercising regularly, patients take a proactive role in improving their health, which can improve their self-esteem and contribute to better mental health.

  5. Better sleep
  6. Those who exercise frequently suffer from fewer sleep problems compared to those that lead a sedentary lifestyle.

    Apart from being able to doze off quickly and enjoy a more peaceful sleep at night, active people also have little trouble staying awake during the day. In fact, just 10 minutes of daily exercise can make a difference in the duration and quality of your sleep.

  7. Reduced high blood pressure
  8. Regular exercise also helps lower blood pressure and can reduce dependence on blood pressure medication. “The effect of exercise on blood pressure doesn’t take long to manifest… from a few weeks to three months,” says Principal Physiotherapist Cindy Ng.

  9. Staying in top condition well beyond your prime
  10. In addition to improving your fitness, exercising frequently reduces your chances of getting old-age diseases:

    • Moderate to vigorous physical activity performed three to four times per week is associated with considerably lower incidence of fragility fractures in both women and men.
    • Exercise can also slow down the cognitive decline and reduce incidence of dementia.

“No matter your age, the benefits of exercise can be overwhelming. Just be sure to get a green light from the doctor before embarking on a new programme,” says Ms Ng.

Need help adopting a better lifestyle? The LIFE Centre at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has a multidisciplinary team of experts who can provide you with guidance on weight management, exercise and diet.

Ref: S13