Exercise to Prevent Disease and Improve Metabolic Health

By Align/WELL

June 2, 2024

fitness, Metabolic Health


  • Regular exercise enhances communication between muscles and fat tissues, improves metabolism, and acts as a robust protector against metabolic diseases associated with aging and obesity.
  • Studies highlight exercise as a potent modulator of metabolism, reducing risks for chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), even outperforming certain medications.
  • Quarantine measures during the Covid-19 pandemic led to health challenges, especially for high-risk individuals. Engaging in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week proved crucial, significantly reducing the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.
  • Consistent physical activity not only reduces the severity of Covid-19 but also acts as a key player in preventing diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory infections.
  • Exercise is a powerful tool not just for physical health but also mental well-being, combating the negative psychological effects of quarantine, including stress, confusion, anger, and boredom.

Group Of Mature Female Friends On Outdoor Yoga Retreat Walking Along Path Through Campsite

Exercising regularly, even if just moderately and at low intensities, is beneficial for overall health as it boosts communication between skeletal muscles and fat tissue, and improves metabolism and performance. In addition, when you exercise, you activate metabolic changes in non-skeletal-muscle tissues, which can effectively help you reduce metabolic disease associated with aging and obesity.

Exercise and Disease Prevention

Studies have shown that exercise is a robust modulator of metabolism and a powerful protective agent against metabolic disease. This is likely to be because it improves metabolic function in multiple organs. Exercise helps regulate insulin sensitivity and overall metabolism. As a result, it can significantly reduce the risks for chronic disease states, including type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), two primary metabolic disease states that are increasing at epidemic rates.

Recent research uncovered that the effects of exercise in the prevention and treatment of metabolic disease are more beneficial than some low-performing pharmacological agents. Being physically active helps us feel better, prevents or slows many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and dementia, and even helps us live longer. However, these studies also indicate that a certain minimum volume of exercise or physical activity is required for normal metabolic function – the US physical activity guidelines and the American Heart Association recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly.

Middle-aged women enjoying a joyful dance class, candidly expressing their active lifestyle through Zumba with friends

Middle-aged women enjoying a joyful dance class, candidly expressing their active lifestyle through Zumba with friends.

Combatting Covid-19 With Exercise

In an effort to stop the rapid spread of the Covid-19 epidemic, quarantine measures were introduced all around the world in early 2020. However, the resulting social isolation and physical stagnation had collateral effects on the isolated patients` health, and especially in those at higher risk, including older people, those with hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and CVD, and patients with respiratory diseases or conditions.

A certain level of physical activity and exercise is required to maintain adequate physical and mental health and is crucial to combat the severity of Covid-19 infection. According to a report in Harvard Health, researchers found that consistently inactive people had a significantly higher risk of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death after getting COVID-19 than those who were active for at least 150 minutes per week. Additionally, those active for over 10 minutes per week had some protection against severe illness or death from COVID-19 — though not as much as those who got the entire 150 minutes.


Exercise is crucial to maintaining good physical and mental health and effectively reduces the severity of Covid-19 infection. By continuing regular exercise, even while staying at home, people can effectively counteract negative consequences of certain diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, CVD, and respiratory infections, as well as reduce the risk of age-related conditions, such as frailty, sarcopenia (loss of muscle tissue due to aging), and dementia. In addition, physical activity and exercise help improve mental health and combat adverse quarantine-induced psychological effects such as post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion, anger, infection fears, frustration, and boredom.

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