The Lesser-Known Benefits of Exercise

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It can prevent alcohol from damaging the brain

In a Colorado study, aerobic exercise was found to prevent and even reverse some of the brain damage caused by heavy drinking.  While high alcohol consumption kills brain cells, exercise can help reduce the damage to the brain's white matter. But that doesn't mean indulge in heavy drinking—researchers note it's still bad for a variety of reasons.


It can prevent bone disease

Research from the University of Exeter found that playing sports or running for at least three hours a week could help teens counteract potential bone disease.  Young people who spend long periods of time sitting are more likely to have low bone mineral content, which can be an indicator of osteoporosis.  The research found that high-intensity sports are the most effective in fighting against bone disease.


It reduces the risk of fighting

Regular exercise for high school girls can provide a myriad of benefits – including decreasing violent behavior.  In a report from Columbia University, teen girls who exercised more than 10 days in the last month had decreased odds of being in a gang, and girls who played team sports in the past year also had lowered odds of carrying a weapon, being in a fight, or being in a gang.


It may lower kidney stone risk

Among women aged 50 and over, exercise was found to lower the risk of kidney stones, according to research.  After analyzing data from more than 85,000 postmenopausal women in the U.S., scientists found that women who walked between 75 and 150 minutes a week (or jogged for 30 to 60 minutes per week) reduced their chances of kidney stones by 22 percent.


It can help teens quit smoking

According to research from George Washington University, teens who walked 20 minutes a day were more likely to cut down on their smoking habits. Though further research is needed to confirm if these findings apply to all adolescent smokers, it provides an avenue by which educators can try to curb teen smoking.


It can slow memory loss

A new study from the University of Nottingham (U.K.) found that staying active can slow down the progression of memory loss in people with Alzheimer's.  Moderate exercise produces the stress hormone CRF that can protect the brain from memory changes related to Alzheimer's.  Researchers believe regular exercise is a means of improving the ability to deal with stress, which can keep mental abilities keen.


It can help with the flu shot

Shots are known to block the flu infection 50 to 70 percent of the time. To get that extra coverage, get some aerobic exercise.  The study analyzed people who jogged at a moderate pace or rode a bike for a period of 90 minutes within 15 minutes of the shot. Results indicated the group of exercisers nearly doubled their antibody response compared to those who didn't work out.


It can improve the quality of semen

Moderate physical activity in men is linked to better hormone levels and sperm quality. In a 2012 study, researchers found that physically active men created a better environment for sperm formation, resulting in more potent semen.  But, a 2010 study indicated elite athletes had lower semen quality than men who are just physically active.


It can aid digestion

While your body may be calling for a rest after a big meal, going for a brief walk shortly after eating can burn calories and aid digestion, according to studies.  Even a 15 to 20 minute walk can help improve blood sugar levels throughout the day. Plus, blood sugars don't spike as dramatically if you walk after meals.  Researchers believe a post-meal outing can help move glucose from the bloodstream to muscles, where it is needed.


It can improve cognition

According to research from the University of Illinois, exercise can increase the size of critical brain structures and improve cognition in both children and older adults.  Using brain scans, the researchers learned that moderate exercise – such as walking – can increase brain power, especially in elders.