Diet & Exercise: Some hidden benefits of exercise

Published 8:00 am Friday, July 20, 2018

Exercise is known to have a bounty of healthful benefits.

It is effectively beneficial to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia and arthritis. Here are a few facts about exercise and its effects you might not know:

• Working out sharpens your memory, and changes the brain in ways that protect memory and thinking skills. Exercise actually stimulates the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain and even the abundance of new brain cells.

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In fact, exercise produces an increase in cells that are responsible for learning and memory.

• Music improves your ability to exercise. Listening to music while working out increases exercise performance by 15 percent.

Music is a great distraction, as it makes you want to move, and it helps you keep a good pace.

• Those who exercise get sick less often. Working out increases circulation and boosts the immune system, the body’s defense against infections. The deep breathing during exercise flushes out the lungs. Working out balances stress hormones.

Also, physical exertion changes T cells, a type of white blood cell, to the ones that are better at fighting disease.

• Regular exercise combined with a healthy diet can help prevent and manage type 2 diabetes. Folks with type 2 diabetes have too much glucose (sugar) in their blood, either because their body doesn’t produce enough insulin or because their body doesn’t use insulin properly (insulin resistance). 

When you exercise, your muscles get the insulin they need, and your blood glucose level goes down. If you’re insulin resistant, exercise makes the insulin you use more effective.

• Workouts can improve the look of your skin. By increasing blood flow, exercising nourishes the skin by carrying oxygen and nutrients to working cells throughout the body. In addition to carrying oxygen, increased blood flow helps carry waste products and free radicals away from working cells.

• Gaining a pound of muscle burns three times more calories than a pound of fat. Muscle is active tissue and requires maintenance 24 hours a day by the body.

This necessitates that calories be spent, or burned by the body. Fat, while is useful in production of some hormones, demands little maintenance from the body, and requires few calorie expenditures.

Basically, the more muscle mass you have, the less fat you’ll have.

• Only 10 percent of people are successful at losing weight through diet alone. The National Weight Control Registry found that 89 percent of those whose use a combination of diet and exercise were successful at keeping weight off.

Also, through exercise, you’ll have a much better shape as you lose the weight.

• Exercise prevents signs of aging. Many scientists determine a cell’s biological age (how well it functions, and not how old it literally is) by measuring the length of its telomeres.

Telomeres are tiny caps found on the end of DNA strands. They are believed to protect the DNA from damage during cell division and replication.

Recent science suggests exercise may slow the fraying of telomeres.

• Exercising boosts self-confidence. There are several mechanisms by which working out increases our evaluations of our self.

First, in the short-term, exercise enhances our mood. Second, in the long-term, exercise makes us feel good about our physical self. It helps boost our confidence and our sense of accomplishment.

• Working out helps you sleep better, too. A regular exercise routine can help reduce stress levels. Stress is a common cause of sleep problems.

Insomnia is commonly linked elevated levels of anxiety and depression. Exercise can promote anti-anxiety responses in the body, and can reduce these symptoms.

Exercise may also help reset your sleep cycle by raising body temperature slightly, then allowing it to drop and triggering sleepiness hours later.

David Crocker, of Landrum, has been a master personal trainer and nutritionist for 30 years. Diet or exercise question? Email him at or text him at 864-494-6215.