Health – Benefits of Physical Exercise

Ellen White wrote at length about the need for and benefit of physical exercise. Consider the following counsel:

“The first and constant care of parents should be that their children may have firm constitutions, that they may be sound men and women. It is impossible to attain this object without physical exercise.” Christian Education, 16.

“Those of sedentary and literary habits should exercise the physical, even if they have no need to labor so far as means is concerned. Health should be a sufficient inducement to lead them to unite physical with their mental labor.” Ibid., 19.

“Without physical exercise, no one can have a sound constitution and vigorous health; and the discipline of well-regulated labor is no less essential to the securing of a strong and active mind and a noble character.” Ibid., 69.

“When the weather will permit, those who are engaged in sedentary occupations, should, if possible, walk out in the open air every day, summer and winter. The clothing should be suitable, and the feet well protected. Walking is often more beneficial to health than all the medicine that can be prescribed. For those who can endure it, walking is preferable to riding; for it brings all the muscles into exercise. The lungs also are forced into healthy action, since it is impossible to walk in the bracing air of a winter morning without inflating them.” Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 100, 101.

“More people die for want of exercise than from overwork; very many more rust out than wear out. In idleness the blood does not circulate freely, and the changes in the vital fluid, so necessary to health and life, do not take place. The little mouths in the skin, through which the body breathes, become clogged, thus making it impossible to eliminate impurities through that channel. This throws a double burden upon the other excretory organs, and disease is soon produced. Those who accustom themselves to exercising in the open air, generally have a vigorous circulation. Men and women, young or old, who desire health and who would enjoy life, should remember that they cannot have these without a good circulation. Whatever their business or inclinations, they should feel it a religious duty to make wise efforts to overcome the conditions of disease which have kept them in-doors.” Ibid., 101.

“Physicians often advise invalids to visit foreign countries, to go to some mineral spring, or to traverse the ocean, in order to regain health; when, in nine cases out of ten, if they would eat temperately, and engage in healthful exercise with a cheerful spirit, they would regain health, and save time and money. Exercise, and a free, abundant use of the air and sunlight,—blessings which Heaven has bestowed upon all,—would in many cases give life and strength to the emaciated invalid.” Ibid., 160.

Knowledge Today

Modern medical science supports the counsel of God’s messenger:

Regular exercise can help protect you from heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, noninsulin-dependent diabetes, obesity, back pain, osteoporosis, and can improve your mood and help you to better manage stress.

For the greatest overall health benefits, experts recommend that you do 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic activity three or more times a week and some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching at least twice a week. However, if you are unable to do this level of activity, you can gain substantial health benefits by accumulating 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity physical activity a day, at least five times a week.

If you have been inactive for a while, you may want to start with less strenuous activities such as walking or swimming at a comfortable pace. Beginning at a slow pace will allow you to become physically fit without straining your body. Once you are in better shape, you can gradually do more strenuous activity.

How Physical Activity Impacts Health

Regular physical activity that is performed on most days of the week reduces the risk of developing or dying from some of the leading causes of illness and death in the United States.

  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely.
  • Reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease.
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes.
  • Reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Helps reduce blood pressure in people who already have high blood pressure.
  • Reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • Helps control weight.
  • Helps build and maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints.
  • Helps older adults become stronger and better able to move about without falling.
  • Promotes psychological well-being.

Specific Benefits of Physical Exercise

Heart Disease and Stroke

Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart’s working capacity.

Heart Disease and Stroke

Regular physical activity can reduce blood pressure in those with high blood pressure levels. Physical activity also reduces body fatness,which is associated with high blood pressure.

Noninsulin-Dependent Diabetes

By reducing body fatness, physical activity can help to prevent and control this type of diabetes.


Physical activity helps to reduce body fat by building or preserving muscle mass and improving the body’s ability to use calories. When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and preventobesity, a major risk factor for many diseases.

Back Pain

By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain.


Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging.

Psychological Effects

Regular physical activity can improve your mood and the way you feel about yourself. Researchers also have found that exercise is likely to reduce depression and anxiety and help you to better manage stress.

“God has blessed human beings with nerves, organs, and muscles; and they are not to be allowed to deteriorate because of inaction, but are to be strengthened and kept in health by exercise.” Child Guidance, 124.