Additional Health Benefits of Exercise

Jennifer Heiner-Pisano
6 min readJul 16


With years of experience in leadership positions, Jennifer Heiner serves a New Jersey running company as the retail director, where she is responsible for inventory control among the company’s four locations, assisting with race directing, when necessary, which this year includes a virtual race option, and hiring new associates in periods such as holidays, and when new stores are set to open. Besides working in the area, Jennifer Heiner-Pisano also considers running one of her favorite hobbies — she is an avid runner and marathoner, and is looking forward to live, in person races resuming in 2021.

Running is known to provide numerous health benefits for those who do it regularly. It can not only provide physical, but emotional benefit as well. Marathoners are those who consistently train for long-distance events, training which can takes several months prior to the goal event. However, less serious runners can train for half-marathons and other shorter distances as a way to achieve many of the physical and cognitive benefits provided by regular long-distance training.

The benefits of taking part in long-distance running events such as marathons and half-marathons come with making consistently long runs, and base-building which requires 4–6 solid days of running per week. Typically, runners need to do long-distance sessions of high-intensity running for weeks on end to get ready for a race. This activity provides the benefit of burning away calories, which results in weight loss, improved muscle tone, among other things. Another health benefit of long-distance training is that it strengthens the heart and blood vessels, minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disorders and heart attack. The average resting heart rate of a distance runner is often on the low end of what is considered normal, which points to strong heart health.  However, this practice is not only beneficial for the physical body. It also improves cognitive aspects such as memory — it is proven that right after long-distance running sessions, runners have a working memory increase of an average of 16 percent.  The endorphins that are released when running also help to promote positive mood and energy, and the relationships formed amongst runners while training and working towards the same goal is invaluable.

Lately, there have been additional studies done regarding other health benefits of exercise, not just running, and how it can improve our physical and mental wellbeing.

Yoga may improve anxiety, depression symptoms (

This latest study, published in healio, is reprinted in full below:

Yoga may improve anxiety, depression symptoms


Key takeaways:

  • Yoga could improve symptoms of depression and anxiety, but the evidence certainty was very low for all outcomes.
  • Improving the research quality in this field is needed to create specific recommendations.

Yoga-based interventions might help improve mental health symptoms for adults diagnosed with anxiety or depressive disorders, according to results published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Recent research has indicated that different exercise programs are helpful in reducing anxiety symptoms and offer antidepressant effects, Javier Martínez-Calderon, a professor at the Universidad de Sevilla in Spain, and colleagues wrote.

“Empirical research in mind-body practices, specifically qigong, tai chi and yoga, has grown exponentially in the field of neuroscience and mental illness in the last decade,” they wrote. “Notably, the improvement of brain health after applying tai chi or yoga is supported by recent reviews.”

Despite the strides in research, the researchers said, “there are still some important gaps in current knowledge,” which led them to conduct a systematic review with meta-analysis and meta-regression to evaluate the impact mind-body exercises may have on anxiety and depression symptoms in adults with those disorders.

They searched five electronic databases and performed manual searches to explore related systematic reviews, secondary analyses of clinical trials and clinical trial protocols. Ultimately, the researchers included 23 studies composed of 22 different samples with a total of 1,420 participants.

Meta-analyses indicated that yoga interventions were superior to control when it came to reducing anxiety symptoms in those with anxiety disorders and depression symptoms in depressive disorders, according to Martinez-Calderon and colleagues. There were no differences between groups for the rest of the comparisons.

“The main clinical finding of this systematic review has been the possible beneficial effect that yoga-based interventions may have on anxiety and depression symptoms in anxiety and depressive disorders, respectively,” the researchers wrote. “A large body of evidence supports the relevance of this mind-body exercise in improving disease related symptoms in different mental disorders.”

However, the researchers noted that the evidence certainty was very low for all outcomes because of concerns regarding the inconsistency and imprecision of the results, high risk of bias and indirectness of the evidence. There was also marked heterogeneity among yoga-based interventions and self-reported tools used to measure outcomes. Therefore, “despite the interesting clinical findings, we should be cautious before recommending the use of yoga-based interventions to treat anxiety and depressive disorders,” the researchers wrote.

“We cannot make definitive clinical recommendations due to the very low certainty of the evidence, several methodological concerns and the heterogeneity of qigong, tai chi and yoga styles among studies,” Martinez-Calderon and colleagues wrote. “Therefore, a specific yoga style cannot be recommended with the current evidence. A call for action for improving the quality of research in this field is needed.”

The researchers wrote that they did not find trials assessing qigong or tai chi in anxiety disorders, and the number of yoga trials was scarce.

“Addressing the observed methodological concerns may help to clarify the role of these mind-body exercises in anxiety and depression disorders,” they wrote. “An interesting future agenda may include improved and increased numbers of high-quality clinical trials evaluating these mind-body exercises in these mental disorders.”

Additionally, also reprinted in full here below: Umbrella review: All types of exercise help mental health symptoms (

Umbrella review: All types of exercise help mental health symptoms


All modes of physical activity were effective in improving both anxiety and depression, highlighting the need for using exercise “as a mainstay approach” for managing mental health, according to researchers.

Ben Singh, PhD, a research fellow at the University of South Australia’s Allied Health & Human Performance, and colleagues wrote in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that anxiety is the most prevalent mental health disorder and depression is the leading cause of mental health-related disease burden.

“While the benefit of exercise for depression and anxiety is generally recognized, it is often overlooked in the management of these conditions,” they wrote. “Furthermore, many people with depression and anxiety have comorbidities, and [physical activity] is beneficial for their mental health and disease management.”

In an umbrella review, Singh and colleagues searched 12 electronic databases for eligible studies: systematic reviews with meta-analyses of randomized controlled trials that assessed the impacts of increased physical activity on adults with anxiety, depression or psychological distress. They ultimately included 97 reviews that comprised 1,039 trials and 128,119 participants.

Singh and colleagues found that physical activity was effective in managing anxiety and depression symptoms “across numerous populations, including the general population, people with mental illnesses and various other clinical populations.”

More specifically, the researchers found that, compared with usual care across all populations, physical activity had medium effects on:

  • anxiety (median effect size = 0.42);
  • depression (median effect size = 0.43); and
  • psychological distress (effect size = 0.6; 95% CI, 0.78 to –0.42).

The largest improvements were observed in people with depression, healthy individuals, pregnant and postpartum people, and those with HIV and kidney disease, the researchers noted. Additionally, more intense physical activity was linked to greater improvements in symptoms, but the effectiveness of physical activity interventions worsened with longer duration interventions.

“All modes of [physical activity] are effective, with moderate-to-high intensities more effective than low intensity,” the researchers wrote. “Larger benefits are achieved from shorter interventions, which has health service delivery cost implications — suggesting that benefits can be obtained following short-term interventions, and intensive long-term interventions are not necessarily required to achieve therapeutic benefit.”

Singh and colleagues also noted that the effect size reductions in symptoms of anxiety and depression “are comparable to or slightly greater than the effects observed for psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy.”

“Future research to understand the relative effectiveness of [physical activity] compared with (and in combination with) other treatments is needed to confirm these findings,” they wrote.”

Jennifer Heiner’s takeaway from all of this? Keep moving! Whether its yoga, strength training, running, or anywhere in between — we can benefit so much from exercise!



Jennifer Heiner-Pisano

A six time marathon competitor, Jennifer Heiner-Pisano volunteers with the New York Road Runners and enjoys all aspects of the running experience.