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Quality Of Life: Exercise’s Greatest Benefit

The purpose of research is to make a connection between two things, or in the case of exercise to determine if an intervention will elicit positive outcomes. As health professionals, we read a lot of research. Articles about aerobic exercise and cardiovascular health, resistance training and diabetes, impact activity and osteoporosis, hydrotherapy and post-surgical rehabilitation, functional electrical stimulation and multiple sclerosis, etc. The effect of these interventions is measured by results or markers such as a reduction in LDL cholesterol, increased bone mineral density and HbA1c levels. However, there is one outcome that is measured more than any other regardless of the condition, intervention or target population, and that is Quality of Life (QOL). The reason for this? It ALWAYS improves.

So, what is ‘Quality of Life’ (QOL)?

Quality of Life is “a state of well-being that is a composite of two components: (1) the ability to perform everyday activities that reflect physical, psychological, and social well-being and (2) patient satisfaction with levels of functioning and the control of disease and/or treatment-related symptoms” (Gotay, Korn, McCabe, Moore, & Cheson, 1992, p. 576). 

Researchers always include this because even if their intervention didn’t elicit the expected effect, it proves there is still a benefit to doing it. The same applies to our life! You may be thinking exercising 3 or more times a week and eating healthy sounds like a lot of hard work just to lose a few kilos. But what if I told you it will also make you feel better, improve your satisfaction with life, improve your relationships, improve fatigue levels, reduce stress and improve your emotional well-being? Now I have your attention. I am 99.9% sure no one has ever said: “I started being more physically active 8 months ago and since then my life has got so much worse”.

In a literature review by Courneya and Friedenreich (1999) 24 studies were analysed, which “consistently demonstrated that physical exercise has a positive effect on QOL following cancer diagnosis, including physical and functional well-being (e.g. functional capacity, muscular strength, body composition, nausea, fatigue) and psychological and emotional well-being (e.g. personality functioning, mood states, self-esteem, and QOL).”

The psychological benefits of exercise include, but are not limited to:

  • Improved mood
  • Reduced stress as well as an improved ability to cope with stress
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Pride in physical accomplishments
  • Increased satisfaction with oneself
  • Improved body image
  • Increased feelings of energy
  • Improved confidence in your physical abilities
  • Decreased symptoms associated with depression

(Association for Applied Sports Psychology)

So if you’ve ever been frustrated by plateauing results or because you aren’t experiencing the effects as rapidly as you had expected take a step back and look at your life as a whole, has it improved?

If you are ever experiencing mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and PTSD, don’t forget to speak to your GP or Exercise Physiologist about how we can help.

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