Last week, a New Yorker political piece by Evan Osnos included this: “Other than golf, [Trump] considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy.” This is not the first time that trump’s disdain for exercise (or any healthy activity) has been noted.
But this idea that we have only a set amount of energy for our lifetime is wrong – dead wrong. Exercise does deplete our body’s store of fuel – glucose, glycogen, and fats – temporarily. But those stores are replenished as soon as we eat. In fact, our body’s store of fuel will deplete anyway, and need to be replenished just from living, It’s a constant process of burning fuel and replenishing.
There is a wealth of data to support the exact opposite of his beliefs.
-A 2008 study of sedentary adults (Peutz, Flowers, O’Connor, published in Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics) found participants involved in a 6-week program of low-moderate exercise three days per week had improved sense of vigor and energy, and lower levels of fatigue.
-From research on exercise and depression, we know that exercise produces changes in hormone levels and chemical changes in the brain which improve mood. A study by Jeremy Sibold in 2009, presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, found that moderate exercise created a boost in mood, for people of any fitness level, which lasteed up to 12 hours.
-A 2012 study found that people suffering from depression had improved cognition after walking in nature.
-Exercise improves energy, cognition, and quality of life for elderly and frail.
-Exercise improves quality of sleep.
In particular, numerous studies on exercise and cancer patients have proved that, far from depleting energy, regular moderate exercise improves energy and lessens fatigue.
-A 2008 study showed improvement in fatigue with a walking program for Leukemia patients undergoing treatment.
-A meta-analysis of existing studies on weight training and cancer patients found improvements in muscle strength, which improves functionality and fatigue, with no negative implications for cancer patients.
-A 2012 meta-analysis of 34 existing studies found wide improvements in strength and quality of life for cancer patients who exercise moderately.
So the president has said one more thing that is false, so what? If he’s unhealthy, and fat, and lazy, why does it matter?
Because he’s giving an excuse to a population which is generally pretty unhealthy already. Sadly, people listen to him, and some actually believe him, despite all evidence to the contrary. We’ve got a population which doesn’t exercise regularly, has a vastly growing obesity problem (and I’m not fat-shaming here, but obesity is definitely linked to poorer health and poorer quality of life), and doesn’t eat very well. And now we’ve got a president who eats crap, doesn’t exercise – and his many golf trips don’t count unless he’s walking the course and carrying his own clubs, which he’s not – and tells people lies about how exercise isn’t good for the body.
It can be hard to find time to exercise. It can be hard to make healthier choices in what we eat, drink, or how we live. And those choices matter. They lead to an increased risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and many, many other medical problems. They lead to more missed work, and lower productivity. They lead to a lot more people not feeling as good as they could.
No one has to be perfect. But small choices for better health can add up to big improvements. People need encouragement. They don’t need one more easy excuse.