5 Diseases That Can Be Prevented with Exercise

Exercise provides a wide range of health benefits. You know this. But you might not know that starting a new workout routine — and sticking to it — could lower your disease risk and prevent you from getting seriously sick.

Is that enough to get you off the couch and into the only pair of workout shorts that still fit? No? Let’s specify which diseases you’re less likely to get if you make fitness a serious priority.

Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is completely preventable. Factors such as weight, diet, and physical activity all determine your risk for developing this chronic condition. It’s much easier to control your blood sugar and keep your body healthy before you develop prediabetes, insulin resistance, or type 2 diabetes.

Exercise improves your body’s ability to use insulin properly. Insulin resistance is a major contributor to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Certain types of cancer

Cancer

Cancer | Ridofranz/ iStock

Sometimes, it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly why a person might have developed cancer; it isn’t always fully preventable. But certain positive lifestyle behaviors — such as exercise — might lower your risk.

According to the National Cancer Institute, regular exercise has been shown to lower a person’s risk of developing breast, colon, and endometrial cancers. There isn’t much evidence to support a positive relationship between exercise and other types of cancer, but a healthier overall lifestyle can lower your risk of many health problems such as obesity that could increase your cancer risk.

Heart disease

It’s no secret that exercise is good for your heart. Physical activity makes your heart muscle stronger, which allows it to more effectively pump blood throughout your body. This keeps your blood pressure low and your circulatory system in good shape. High blood pressure and high cholesterol are both major contributors to heart disease risk.

Studies have suggested that those who exercise consistently experience a lower risk of heart disease than people who are physically inactive.

Sleep apnea

Senior woman sleeping

Senior woman sleeping | Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images

Sleep apnea describes a blockage in the upper airway of the throat that stops a person from breathing. Usually, the brain wakes you up automatically to resume normal breathing patterns — even if you don’t realize it’s happening.

Exercise doesn’t just improve symptoms in people who already have it. Since those classified as obese face a greater risk of developing sleep apnea, exercise can help prevent the condition by reducing weight before complications arise.

Obesity

Obesity is a complicated health condition with many possible combinations of risk factors and causes. Though poor diet and physical inactivity aren’t the only contributing factors at play, people who exercise regularly are much less likely to live with obesity and its many devastating health complications.

Researchers acknowledge that energy balance — how many calories you take in and how many you put out — is the most controllable part of weight loss and management. Exercise comes with many added challenges for people who are already overweight or obese. Do what you can to mke changes before that happens.

Exercise is hard to start, and even harder to keep up with once you do. But it’s worth the sweat, pain, and tears (or are you just sweating from your eyes?). It might take some time, but finding a physical activity you will enjoy week after week can make all the difference — both in the short-term and later in your life.