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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Benefits of Exercise Go Way Beyond the Muscles

By Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 22, 2015

June 22, 2015 -- Every year, John Thyfault snaps the same photo, and it makes him a little sad.
Thyfault, PhD, is an associate professor at Kansas University Medical Center, where he studies the health effects of exercise. Each year, he travels to the American Diabetes Association’s annual scientific sessions. The meeting attracts roughly 18,000 people and is held in massive convention centers that span the distances of several football fields, their floors connected by long staircases and humming escalators.
Conference organizers pick a prominent set of stairs and lay down a decal with the logo for their “Stop Diabetes” campaign -- a hand with a drop of blood on the fingertip. It’s meant to remind attendees to take the stairs instead of riding the escalator.
Each time they put the sign up, Thyfault stands at the foot of the stairs and whips out his smartphone. The stairs are nearly empty, but the escalator is packed. To him, it’s a picture worth a thousand pills.
“Exercise and physical activity is not something that you just do extra in your life to get extra healthy. Rather, it’s something that’s absolutely necessary for normal function,” he says.
Thyfault hopes to make more people aware that exercise benefits the body in ways that go far beyond muscle tissue and burning fat.
“We were meant to exercise quite a bit every day to survive, and now we’ve taken it away, and we’re actually causing dysfunction,” he says.
Exercise and Blood Sugar
He’s passionate about exercise because his research has shown again and again how critical it is to health. He says when he’s tried to cause disease, for example, by feeding rats or mice high-fat diets, he can’t do it as long as the animals are exercising.
“Inactivity is the foundational piece that has to be there for these diseases to develop,” he says.
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