Physical exercise and health: a review

Niger J Med. 2006 Jul-Sep;15(3):190-6. doi: 10.4314/njm.v15i3.37214.


Background: Physical activity results in increased exercise capacity and physical fitness, which may lead to many health benefits. Individuals who are more physically active appear to have lower rates of all-cause mortality, probably due to a decrease in chronic diseases including coronary artery disease (CAD). This may result from an improvement in cardiovascular risk factors in addition to enhanced fibrinolysis, improved endothelial function, decreased sympathetic tone, and other yet undetermined factors.

Methods: We reviewed the literature on physical activity and health with particular reference to the benefits derivable by engaging in regular physical activity. The MEDLINE/PUBMED and bibliographic searches for English language studies were used.

Results: Physical inactivity is now considered a risk factor for Cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Regular exercise results in an increase in exercise capacity and lower myocardial oxygen demand leading to cardiovascular benefits, including lower mortality rates. Physically active individuals suffer from fewer ailments than do less-active individuals. Physical activity reduces cardiovascular risk through lowering of blood pressure, improved glucose tolerance, reduced obesity, improvement in lipid profile, enhanced fibrinolysis, improved endothelial function and enhanced parasympathetic autonomic tone.

Conclusion: Physical exercise has many health benefits and the evidence for this continues to accumulate. Health care professionals should incorporate counselling to patients for physical exercise in their daily clinical practice, while health policy makers and community physicians should see to implementation of this at the community level.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Diabetes Mellitus / prevention & control
  • Exercise*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors