Latest Studies on Exercise

Latest Studies on Exercise
By Erin Phelan

By Erin Phelan

Fitness Industry Council of Canada

The global focus on health and wellness continues to provide significant new insights and research on the benefits of exercise for chronic disease management, brain health, mental health and more. Fitness Industry Council of Canada dives into the latest findings and research that continues to prove physical activity is not only essential, but is the most powerful drug we have to improve our health and well-being.



A new study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences in July 2024 highlights the metabolic benefits of HIIT. Researchers found that participants who engaged in HIIT workouts three times a week for eight weeks showed significant improvements in their metabolic health, including reduced insulin resistance and increased mitochondrial function. These findings suggest that HIIT can be a powerful tool in managing conditions such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. HIIT was also proven to be effective in reducing visceral fat, a type of fat stored around the organs linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease.


In addition, an umbrella review of 24 studies found that HIIT and Sprint Intensity Training significantly improved cardiovascular fitness among all groups – from healthy and fit to overweight and obese, older adults and high-level athletes and across various HIIT modalities.



Strength training is having its moment in the sun, after living in the shadow of cardio. A study from the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity in July 2024 provides compelling evidence that resistance training can significantly enhance longevity and quality of life in older adults. The research involved a cohort of participants aged 60 and above who engaged in a structured resistance training program twice a week for six months.


The results were impressive: participants experienced improved muscle mass, strength, and functional abilities, such as balance and mobility. The study found a correlation between increased muscle strength and reduced biomarkers of aging, such as lower levels of inflammatory markers and improved telomere length. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of chromosomes, and their length is associated with cellular aging; longer telomeres indicate healthier, younger cells. These findings underscore the importance of incorporating strength training into exercise routines, especially for older adults, to promote healthy aging and extend lifespan.


The link between physical activity and mental health is well-documented, but new research from July 2024 sheds light on the specific mechanisms involved. A comprehensive review in the American Journal of Psychiatry examined multiple studies and concluded that exercise, particularly aerobic activities like running and cycling, significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.


One of the key findings was the role of exercise in promoting neurogenesis, the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain. This is particularly relevant for the hippocampus, an area associated with memory and mood regulation. The review highlighted that consistent aerobic exercise leads to increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels, which supports neurogenesis and helps alleviate depressive symptoms.


This review also explored the impact of exercise on the gut-brain axis. Physical activity was shown to positively influence gut microbiota composition, which in turn affects brain health and mental health. This emerging area of research suggests that the benefits of exercise extend beyond the brain to the entire body’s physiological network.



Emerging research continues to support the role of exercise in cancer care. A groundbreaking study published in The Lancet Oncology in July 2024 examined the effects of a structured exercise program on patients undergoing treatment for breast and colorectal cancer. The study involved 600 participants who were randomized into either an exercise intervention group or a control group receiving standard care.


The exercise group participated in a combination of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and strength training sessions, tailored to their individual capabilities and treatment schedules. The findings were notable: exercise led to significant improvements in quality of life, reduced treatment-related side effects such as fatigue, and enhanced physical functioning. Importantly, the study also reported a lower recurrence rate of cancer in the exercise group, suggesting that physical activity may have protective effects beyond symptom management


One of the most exciting developments in exercise science is the move towards personalized fitness plans. In a recent study from Stanford University researchers developed an AI-based system that analyzes a person’s genetic makeup, physical condition, and lifestyle factors to recommend the most effective exercise regimen. The system was tested on a diverse group of participants, showing remarkable success in improving fitness outcomes compared to standard, one-size-fits-all exercise programs. For instance, participants with genetic predispositions to endurance were recommended more aerobic exercises, while those with a propensity for muscle growth were guided towards resistance training. This tailored approach not only maximized fitness gains but also enhanced participants’ adherence to their exercise routines, as the activities were more aligned with their natural inclinations and preferences.



A study published in the Journal of Pain in July 2024 explored the role of exercise in managing chronic pain conditions, such as osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. This randomized controlled trial included 400 participants who were divided into an exercise intervention group and a usual care group.


The exercise program consisted of low-impact activities, including swimming, yoga, and tai chi, designed to improve flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular fitness without exacerbating pain. The study found that participants in the exercise group reported significant reductions in pain intensity, improved physical function, and enhanced quality of life compared to those receiving usual care. These results indicate that exercise can be a valuable component in the multidisciplinary approach to chronic pain management, providing relief and improving patients’ functional abilities.


Is Exercise the Most Potent Medication?

These studies underscore the power of exercise to be used as medicine. As the ongoing research unfolds, we are excited for further evidence on exercise as the most powerful drug on the market.

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.

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