8 great ways exercise can improve your health


4 minutes

19 December 2021

A man smiling after exercise outdoors

From feeling more vibrant to reducing your risk of disease, there are heaps of reasons to stay active. An exercise physiologist explains.

You know exercise is good for you – but what does it actually do for your health?

Not only can it help boost your energy, mood and feelings of wellbeing, staying active can also help reduce your risk of many health conditions.1

HBF Health Services Coordinator and Exercise Physiologist Sarah Penter explains a few of the ways exercise can support a healthy mind and body.

In this article

1. Improve your cardio fitness

Activities that get your heart rate up – like brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming and dancing – help improve your cardio fitness. 

This can make it easier to perform everyday activities (like climbing the stairs or chasing after the kids), as well as supporting your long-term health.

“Exercise is great for our hearts,” Penter says. “Improving our cardiovascular fitness has been shown to contribute to reducing our risk of developing heart disease.”2

2. Build muscle and bone strength

“Performing muscle strengthening exercises at least two times per week has been shown to help build strong muscles and bones, which help support your body,” Penter says.

This can include things like lifting weights, bodyweight exercises like push-ups, squats and lunges, or other activities that involve lifting or carrying.3

“By strengthening our muscles and bones, this can help to prevent conditions like osteoporosis as we age.”

3. Lift your mood, reduce stress and improve mental health 

You may notice after a workout that you feel a rush of good feelings. Exercise is a great way to release stress and tension and boost your mood.1

“When we exercise, we release the feel-good chemicals known as endorphins and serotonin, which can leave us feeling happier and more relaxed,” Penter says.

“In addition, there is evidence to suggest that exercise may help to reduce the impact of some mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety.”4

4. Feel more energised

While it might initially make your muscles feel tired, getting active can help boost your energy levels and overall feeling of vitality.1

“One of the more immediate effects of exercise is the impact on our energy levels,” Penter says. “An acute bout of exercise has been shown to result in an enhanced feeling of energy.”

5. Get a better night’s sleep

Getting active during the day supports healthy sleep patterns, helping you fall asleep faster and get a better night’s rest.5

“Not only can exercise promote better sleep, but improved sleep can also help to improve energy levels and promote physical activity during the day, so the benefits go both ways,” Penter explains. 

6. Support a healthy brain

Exercise supports a healthy brain and may help improve your memory and concentration, as well as helping to create new brain connections.4

In the long term, regular exercise can also help reduce your risk of dementia.1 

7. Help manage your weight

Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is important for reducing your risk of many health conditions6 – and exercise can play a role in this.1

“Regular exercise increases the amount of energy we use, which assists with maintaining a healthy weight,” Penter says.

“In some instances, this can contribute to a reduction in weight, when combined with a reduction in calories consumed.”

8. Reduce your risk of health conditions

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to improve your overall long-term health.7

“Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for ill health in Australia,” Penter says. 

“Being active regularly has been shown to reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and dementia,” Penter says.7 

Getting started with exercise

So how much exercise should you do? To support good health, it’s recommended to aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise on most (if not all) days of the week.1

If you have any existing health conditions, injuries or mobility issues, it can be a good idea to talk to your GP before starting a new exercise routine.

An exercise physiologist can also guide you on the best ways to exercise to help you manage or prevent chronic illness or injury. 

How can health insurance help?

HBF extras insurance can include cover for a few services that may support your exercise goals, such as:

  • Physiotherapy. From aches and pains to mobility issues and injuries, physio can help treat a wide range of physical conditions.
  • Exercise physiology. Get support for managing, treating or preventing chronic illness or injury through exercise.
  • Remedial massage. Recover with soft tissue manipulation that can help treat injuries or illness.
  • Dietetics. Get personalised advice on healthy eating to support your exercise goals and overall health.

If you’re an HBF member, you can check what you're covered for by logging on to myHBF or calling us on 133 423.

Extras cover to keep you moving

With benefits for physio, remedial massage, dietetics and more, HBF extras can help support your wellbeing.

Find out more


  1. 1Better Health Channel – Physical activity - it's important
  2. 2The Heart Foundation – Benefits of physical activity
  3. 3Australian Government Department of Health – Physical activity and exercise guidelines for adults 18-64 years
  4. 4healthdirect – Exercise and mental health
  5. 5The Sleep Foundation – Exercise and sleep
  6. 6The Australian Government Department of Health – About overweight and obesity


This article contains general information only and does not take into account the health, personal situation or needs of any person. In conjunction with your GP or treating health care professional, please consider whether the information is suitable for you and your personal circumstances.