There are a number of reasons why people exercise, including health benefits, enjoyment, self esteem and social reasons. Most people know cardiovascular training strengthens the heart and lungs and that strength training builds muscles, but there are other benefits of exercise you might not realize. Although most people’s goals are purely physical there is much more to exercise than the eyes can see. Here are 6 interesting facts about exercise you may have not heard before. Be sure to remember them the next time you don’t feel like making it to the gym!
1. Exercise Can Improve your Sex Life
If this isn’t enough motivation to put on your Nikes and go for a run I don’t know what else to tell you! Research indicates that exercise may increase sexual drive, sexual activity, and sexual satisfaction. Results of a study in 2003 reported that women were more sexually responsive following 20 minutes of vigorous exercise. Among males, short intense exercise is linked with increased testosterone levels, which may stimulate sexual interest and behavior. It has also been demonstrated that men over 50 who kept physically active had a 30% lower risk of impotence compared with inactive men. Furthermore, a Harvard University study of 160 male and female swimmers in their 40s and 60s showed a positive relationship between regular physical activity and the frequency and enjoyment of sexual intercourse. Regular physical activity enhances health and improves overall appearance, both of which can boost aspects of sexuality. — Are you half way out the door and on your way to the gym yet?
2. Aerobic Exercise Creates New Brain Cells
In a 2006 study by University of Illinois researchers, 30 healthy but sedentary men and women aged 60-79 were put on an aerobic exercise training program. After 6 months, their brain volume – the amount of grey and white matter- had increased. That meant more brain cells and more connections between them. Brain volume however did not increase in 30 similar people who participated in a stretching program. Aerobic exercise increases the supply of a protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF, which protects brain neurons and promotes the growth of new nerve cells and synapses that are related to learning and memory. BDNF is active in the hippocampus, an area deep in the brain that is essential for memory. As people age the hippocampus tends to shrink but this and other related studies indicate that aerobic exercise may help offset this tendency. With a bigger hippocampus seniors are able to remain independent for much longer than those who have impaired spatial memory. Who knew that going for a simple walk could mean independence in your future.
3. Exercise Helps Fight Off Severe Effects of the Flu
It appears that exercise pain does have plenty of gain when it comes to fighting off the severe effects of the flu. A study by five Iowa State University researchers on mice infected with the flu virus suggests that a moderate workout per day may diminish the severity of the flu’s symptoms. The ISU researchers found that mice that regularly ran on a treadmill over a three-and-a-half month period developed less severe symptoms from the flu virus than those that were not subjected to exercise, and had less influenza virus in their lungs. The mice that regularly exercised showed lower levels of inflammatory factors in their lungs soon after being infected with the virus. The ISU researchers built upon their previous research and conducted the same study on human subjects who had been immunized with the flu vaccine. Subjects who participated in moderate exercise training for approximately one year had higher antibody levels in response to influenza vaccine than those subjects who remained sedentary. While this new study confirms the value of exercise on strengthening the immune system, they emphasize that moderate exercise has only been found to be beneficial before infection. So the key is to exercise before you get the flu – not during. Exercising while you are sick has not been proven to shorten the duration of your cold!
4. Aerobic Exercise Reduces Visceral Fat
Visceral fat, which accumulates around the organs deep inside the belly, is linked to insulin resistance, heart disease, and diabetes. If a man has a hard, big belly, the odds are that he has a fair amount of visceral fat. In a 2005 study at Duke University Medical Center researchers reported that sedentary overweight men and women who followed an exercise program equivalent to a brisk 30-minute walk six times a week for 8 months stopped gaining visceral fat and if they did more exercise, the equivalent of jogging 32 kilometres a week they lost 7% of their abdominal fat. What’s really eye opening about this study is that the people in the control group who were told not to increase their exercise had an increase of 9% in their visceral fat store in only 6 months. With age, you will gain visceral fat unless you do something to prevent it. Going for a simple walk could be saving your life by preventing visceral fat gains!
5. Exercise Improves Your Mood
A new study has shown that, as far as the mood-boosting abilities of physical exercise go, they are actually longer lasting than initially suspected.Working out during the day can considerably alter one’s mood (for the better of course!) for up to 12 hours, according to researchers at the University of Vermont. Researchers divided two groups of student volunteers into two distinct groups: 24 students were asked to ride an exercise bike for roughly 20 minutes at moderate intensity, while another 24 did absolutely nothing for the same period of time. All of them were then asked to fill in questionnaires at regular intervals to evaluate their mood and how they felt in general. Even 12 hours after working out, the volunteers in the first group were in higher spirits than those who did not exercise at all. These findings of the study are all the more important in the cases of those who suffer from depression or acute stress. “Daily exercise can improve your mood and mitigate some of the stressors of your day. It’s clear that exercise is critical for both physical health and mental health.” Jeremy Sibold, an assistant professor at the Department of Rehabilitation and Movement Science said to USA Today. The study was presented recently at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine – further research aims to show exactly what needs to be done to ensure the mood boosting effects of working out last as much as possible.
6. Sitting is Directly Related to Mortality
Peter Katzmarzyk, an MD at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana, and his colleagues tracked a representative sample of 17,000 Canadian adults who took part in a 1981 national Fitness Survey. Nearly half reported sitting for at least half of their waking hours. After 12 years, roughly 20% of those who said they sat “almost all of the time” had died, compared with 12% of those who sat “approximately half the time” and just 6% of those who sat “almost none of the time”. And that was true for non-smokers as well as smokers, and the lean as well as the overweight or obese. This is the first study that has been able to show that sitting is directly related to mortality. There is still more research to be done but they believe that sitting for long periods of time leaves muscles inactive and this may change the way people metabolize compounds which may affect the regulation of insulin and glucose. Dr. Katzmarzyk suggests that the simple act of standing up changes the physiology of the limbs so “stand up, walk around, do anything to encourage blood flow and increase muscle activity in the lower limbs”. If it’s a nice day outside take that coffee meeting to the streets and go for a walk – it could save your life!
If you would like more information of the studies presented in this article or need help incorporating exercise into your life please feel free to email me at email@example.com
By: Mica Whitworth
ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, AAHFRP Medical Exercise Specialist & SSC