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In Focus

Physical Fitness

Exercise—from gentle stretching to high-intensity training—is not only important for physical health, but Harvard experts are finding benefits for stress, memory, mood, and more.

Last updated: June 2024

Expert advice

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Exercise plays a key role in the physical and mental wellbeing of people of all ages. Research shows that moderate physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease, depression, dementia, and several types of cancers.

Explore different types of exercise

A group of people exercising
Two older people walking with backpacks on

People with special considerations

An activity for all types

Researchers have found that exercise is not just something that should be practiced by young, healthy individuals. It is also important and beneficial for people with joint issues, people with limited options, people who require low impact, people who are pregnant, and even people who only have time for walking.

An array of benefits

Harvard researchers are discovering all the ways in which exercise improves physical and mental wellbeing.

Learn why exercise may make your grandkids healthier

A person running on a treadmill

Small bursts can offer big changes

A study by Massachusetts General Hospital has found that 12-minute exercise bursts demonstrated an uptick in circulating metabolites, which govern insulin resistance, stress, inflammation, and longevity.

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  • Brain

Exercise can improve cognition for those with Alzheimer’s

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  • Joints

Reduce chronic inflammation through exercise

A person biking on a bike trail
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  • Mood

Exercise helps to lower the risk of depression

Older folks flexing
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  • Cancer

Lack of exercise could contribute to an increased cancer risk

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  • Bones

Exercise aids in overall bone health

People in an exercise class
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  • Stress

Alleviate stress with exercise

A group of five students running together, training for a marathon
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