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The current president of the United States has some false beliefs about physical fitness.
Most recently, there was this nugget of information from a New Yorker magazine story about the president. Trump “considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy,” writes Evan Osnos.
This belief is also described in the Washington Post’s biography of the 45th president, which explains that he gave up sports after college because of this same mysterious “battery” belief, that working out would deplete his energy.
None of this is new for Trump, who said back in 1997 that he worked out “on occasion … as little as possible.”
But people are not batteries and this is not how human biology works.
Most researchers agree that exercise is essentially the closest thing we have to a miracle cure for a variety of health conditions.
“Exercise has benefits for every body system; it is effective both as a treatment and for prevention of disease. It can improve memory and concentration, lessen sleep disorders, aid heart disease by lowering cholesterol and reducing blood pressure, help sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction, and raise low libido. Exercise does it all. Even with cancer, particularly colon and recurrent breast cancer, the data show clearly that exercise is a deterrent. Newer studies on a glycoprotein called Interleukin 6 suggests that general body inflammation, a factor in almost every chronic disease, is reduced by regular exercise.”
Exercise is “the real polypill,” a single intervention free of side effects that has a host of positive effects, researchers wrote in the journal Physiology that same year. “I believe that if physical activity was a drug it would be classed as a wonder drug,” wrote Professor Dame Sue Bailey, chair of the UK Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, in the introduction to a 2015 report on the importance of exercise.
When it comes specifically to “energy” – “low energy” being a favorite insult of Trump’s – exercise is the thing that gives people more energy.
“Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently,” boosting energy, according to the Mayo Clinic.
You work out and you do get tired, but your body adapts to the stress that you put it under. As you recover, you become stronger, better able to deal with any sort of physical (and it turns out, mental) stress.
“If we can create a battery that, every time it’s used, actually becomes more powerful and efficient, then sure, our body is like that battery,” Michael Jonesco, a sports medicine specialist at Ohio State University, tells The Washington Post.
Exercise helps you live longer, improves your mood, and improves brain function. Some people who overtrain can end up feeling fatigued, though that’s generally in the context of preparing for a marathon, ultramarathon, or similarly intense activity. But that’s not most people.
We need at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week to be healthy, though some people need more or less than that. But to claim that exercise is bad for you is potentially harmful to anyone who follows that advice.
Previous presidents relied on exercise to manage the stress of the office. George W. Bush was – and still is – an avid mountain biker. Barack Obama worked out daily, mixing it up between aerobic activity and weights – and was reportedly quite the competitive pick-up basketball player. Those two presidents show that it’s possible to work long hours and still get a sufficient workout.
But don’t take our current president for a model of physical fitness, even if his personal physician declared he’d be the “healthiest man ever elected president.”