Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Most people come to the gym to work out for very specific reasons; some are looking to lose weight, others are looking to gain muscle mass, some come in because they want to be able to eat what they want without repercussions. Whatever it might be, there are a host of reasons to be exercising, but there are also a host of “hidden” benefits of exercise that people are benefiting from (or missing out on) without even realizing it.
Physical activity can help manage diabetes
If you struggle with fluctuating blood sugar, physical activity could help you manage your levels. Research has found that compared to sedentary individuals with diabetes, those who committed to 175 minutes per week of exercise lost more weight, had better blood sugar control, and did not require as much medication for sleep apnea, knee pain, depression, etc. This is because when we exercise, our muscle glucose intake is 5 times greater than when we are sedentary. This higher intake effect can last up to 48 hours during longer bouts of aerobic exercise. This effect can even be activated by shorter bouts (20 minutes) of higher intensity workouts.
FUN FACT: Even extremely small bouts of exercise of just 400 calories per week (roughly 4 miles of walking) can improve insulin activation in sedentary adults.
Physical activity can help improve bone strength
As we get older, our body slowly begins to get tired and breakdown. Most often we think about this in factors like bad hearing or vision, but our bones also become less dense and more brittle. This is why as we get older it is easier for us to break our bones from less traumatic impacts. However, exercise can help maintain and even develop stronger bones into our later years. Research indicates that weight bearing, resistance exercises that are more taxing than what we encounter in our daily life (hiking, jogging, sports, weight lifting, etc.) places the skeleton under mechanical stress and encourages osteoblast activity, which keeps our bone density higher and maintains bone strength.
FUN FACT: Despite swimming and cycling being great aerobic exercise, they don't improve bone density because they are non weight bearing.
Physical activity can make you live longer
For this point, I'm going to give you some health risks and I want you to guess which can be avoided with exercise, ready? Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, cancer, osteoporosis, skeletal disease, depression. If you answered all of the above, you are correct. Living a sedentary life puts you at a significantly higher risk of developing the above health risks, while being physically active in your life will put you at a decreased risk. So now if we look at some of the leading causes of death in the world, cardiovascular disease is currently the leading cause. This means that your probability of death can be significantly decreased by implementing regular exercise into your schedule.
FUN FACT: If you are reading this, you are not dead. Keep it up!
Why should you care?
No matter what your plans are for your gym routine, a little information can go a long way. As we go through life, we will face difficulties and changes in our bodies that we will have little control over, and it is important to educate and understand your body so that you are able to enjoy your life to the fullest extent.
Personal Trainer, The GYM @ Norton
B.S. in Exercise Science
Sheri R. Colberg, Ronald J. Sigal, Jane E. Yardley, Michael C. Riddell, David W. Dunstan, Paddy C. Dempsey, Edward S. Horton, Kristin Castorino, Deborah F. Tate.
“Physical Activity/Exercise and Diabetes: A Position Statement of the American Diabetes Association.” Diabetes Care Nov 2016, 39 (11) 2065-2079;
Hegde, Sheila M, and Scott D Solomon. “Influence of Physical Activity on Hypertension and Cardiac Structure and Function.” Current hypertension reports vol. 17,10 (2015): 77. doi:10.1007/s11906-015-0588-3
Hong, A Ram, and Sang Wan Kim. “Effects of Resistance Exercise on Bone Health.” Endocrinology and metabolism (Seoul, Korea) vol. 33,4 (2018): 435-444. doi:10.3803/EnM.2018.33.4.435
Park, Jung Ha et al. “Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks.” Korean journal of family medicine vol. 41,6 (2020): 365-373. doi:10.4082/kjfm.20.0165