Why Donald Trump Is Wrong About Exercise

Donald Trump at his golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland in June 2016.
Donald Trump at his golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland in June 2016. (Image credit: Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty)

President Donald Trump reportedly eschews exercise because he believes it drains the body's "finite" energy resources, but experts say this argument is flawed because the human body actually becomes stronger with exercise.

Trump's views on exercise were mentioned in a New Yorker article published this week by politics reporter Evan Osnos. The article notes, "Other than golf, [Trump] considers exercise misguided, arguing that a person, like a battery, is born with a finite amount of energy."

Other authors have also noted Trump's aversion to exercise. According to an article on Vox, the 2016 book "Trump Revealed" states that Trump mostly gave up athletics after college, believing that exercise would only deplete a person's finite amount of energy.

Although it's true that exercise uses energy, "the 'battery' concept fails to account for several inborn capacities our body possesses that make it one of, if not the greatest, machines on Earth," said Dr. Michael Jonesco, a sports medicine and orthopedics specialist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. "Our bodies are so complex, it's incredibly difficult to describe its unrivaled efficiency and adaptability," Jonesco said. [The 4 Types of Exercise You Need to Be Healthy]

Exercise does deplete stores of glucose, glycogen and fats — the body's "fuels" — from the body's tissues, but these fuels are restored when a person eats, Jonesco said.

Rather than thinking of energy stores as a battery, "a better analogy would be like the fire that you continue to fuel with more coal or wood," Jonesco told Live Science. "You need to continue to add fuel, or your flame will die. This is true whether you exercise or not ... Simply by existing, we are burning energy."

What's more, although exercise puts a temporary stress on the body, the body adapts to that stress so that the heart and muscles become stronger and more efficient. "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," Jonesco said.

Some studies have even found that exercise makes people feel more energized. In one study, conducted in 2008, researchers tested the effects of exercise on 36 people who reported feeling chronically tired but didn't have a medical condition to explain their fatigue. They found that the people who engaged in 20 minutes of low- to moderate-intensity exercise three times a week reported a 20 percent increase in their feelings of energy, compared  to what was seen in a control group of people who didn't work out at all.

According to the American Council on Exercise, starting an exercise program can improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to muscle tissue, allowing muscles to produce more energy. Overall, exercise improves muscle and heart health, which boosts people's endurance, giving them more energy, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Numerous studies also have found links between physical activity and improved mood, as well as reduced symptoms of both depression and anxiety, according to a 2005 review paper on the topic.

One study published last year found that people who got up for short bouts of activity during the day reported better mood, more energy and lower levels of fatigue compared to when they sat all day.

Exercise can stimulate the release of brain chemicals that may improve mood, such as neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids, the Mayo Clinic says.

According to the most recent physical activity guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), adults should do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) per week. Regular exercise is also linked with a number of physical health benefits, including a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and osteoporosis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Exercise may even help you live longer. In a 2015 study, researchers analyzed information from more than 660,000 people ages 21 to 98 in the United States and Sweden who answered questions about how much time they spent doing physical activity. The study found that people who engaged in the recommended level of physical activity were 31 percent less likely to die during the 14-year study period, compared with those who did not engage in any physical activity.

Jonesco noted that if you ever become stranded on a desert island with limited food sources, it would be a good idea to skip working out, because you wouldn't be able to replenish your body's fuels. But "any other time, your body will thank you," for exercising, Jonesco said.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.