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Totally Crazy Side Effects of Exercising You Didn't Know, Says Science

From slowing hair loss to spurring creativity, here are the unlikely benefits of sweating more.
FACT CHECKED BY Alex Daniel

You know that regular exercise, whether you're walking, running, lifting weights, rowing, climbing, or performing high-intensity intervals, will help you burn calories, torch fat, feel better, and largely bring about stronger and more defined muscles that will have you looking better in a swimsuit. (You may also know that if you exercise too much, it could lead to some negative side effects for your body, as well, which could include a hobbled metabolism.)

But did you know that exercise can improve your ability to deliver a compelling presentation at work? Or help you kick your addiction once and for all? Or even help you finally write that novel you've been longing to? It's all true, according to the latest science and the experts we spoke to. For some of the surprising benefits of exercising you had no idea existed, read on, because we've included just some of them right here. And for more great workouts you can try now, see here for The Secret Exercise Trick for Flatter Abs After 40.

1

You'll Become a Better Public Speaker

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"When I started swimming many years ago, I almost immediately found that the quality of my public speaking improved," says Von Collins, an author and triathlon coach at Complete Tri. "I was often giving presentations as part of large group training sessions. My ability to regulate my air intake and outflow improved dramatically. This was due to my lungs being trained to breath with deep, slow breaths while swimming. The benefits were incredible—and got better with time. If you feel that you have a tough time breathing in certain situations, such as public speaking, get on a regular [exercise] schedule."

It's an added benefit that exercise is well known to help you sleep better at night, and all credible science will tell you that a good night's rest is the gift that keeps on giving. On exercise, your "sleep is often better, with more REM and deep sleep, due to the body's fatigue and need to regenerate," says Collins. "The reason this is so beneficial is because your body needs the sleep for muscular recovery reasons, your brain is secretly benefitting form all of that sleep."

The one exception? Working out at night. As ETNT Mind+Body's resident trainer Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., advises, "We want to avoid training later in the evening because it stimulates the stress hormone cortisol and can cause you to stay awake later." And for some great tips that will help you sleep, check out these Secret Celeb Self-Care Tips That Totally Work.

2

You'll Slow Your Hair Loss

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If you're living a high-stress life, you may find that your hair is starting to thin and even fall out. As Melissa Piliang, M.D., a hair-loss expert at Cleveland Clinic, explained to Men's Health, your stress and anxiety will spike your cortisol levels, which leads to a hormonal dissonance in your body that accelerates balding. One of the best ways to temper that stress is to exercise more. One study published in PLOS One found that men who worked out more released more than 40% less cortisol in the typical day than those who didn't exercise.

3

You'll Reduce Your Wrinkles

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"Exercise won't just keep your body in shape, but it will also keep your skin looking younger, healthier and wrinkle-free," says John Gardner, a NASM-certified personal trainer and CEO of the training platform Kickoff. "In fact, it can even reverse the aging effect and help reduce existing wrinkles naturally."

The science backs him up. A 2014 study conducted by researchers at Canada's McMaster University found that exercising can actively change your skin composition in such at way that it will help reduce wrinkles, crow's feet, and sagging.

4

You'll Be Better at Fighting Addiction

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"Exercise is used as a treatment during substance use disorder (SUD)," notes Rashmi Byakodi, BDS, who runs the site Best for Nutrition. "Exercise is advocated as an intrinsically rewarding, engaging, healthy, and safe alternative behavior. Cravings often contribute to relapse among individuals with SUDs, alleviating these cravings with exercise may decrease relapse rates. Thus, exercise can help individuals with SUDs both acutely (i.e. immediately after exercise) and in the long term."

5

You'll Use the Bathroom Less at Night

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"There are a large number of men, especially those with an enlarged prostate, who usually wake up in the middle of the night for a much-needed bathroom trip," says Gardner. "Exercising has been shown to reduce the need to relieve oneself during the night and allows men to hold it for longer periods."

6

You'll Make New Friends

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Feel like expanding your social network and meeting new people? You could do worse than joining your local gym and partaking in fitness classes. "Becoming more active will better the other aspects of your life," says Ria Patag, of Bolt Active. "For most people, the gym is also a community of like-minded people who are actively working on improving, so it's common for people to make friends at the gym. This lifestyle change will cause some to let go of relationships that don't serve them anymore."

7

You'll Be More Creative

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"When people think about exercise, they see building brawn, but it also builds the brain," says Robert Herbst, a personal trainer, weight loss expert, and 19-time world champion powerlifter who supervised the drug testing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and will have a similar role in Tokyo this year. "By losing oneself in exercise, the unconscious mind also comes up with creative thoughts or solutions to problems one has been working on."

A recent study published in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that if you're looking to boost your own creativity and spur your own imagination, you should take more brisk walks—or perform some other sort of moderate exercise on a daily basis. What's more, the more active you are, the more you can expect your creative juices to flow.

8

You Become a Morning Person

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A weird thing happens when you start sleeping better: You may in fact become a morning person. "Because you're sleeping better, waking up early will become less of a problem," write the folks at Bustle. "With your newfound energy, and amazing sleep, you'll be popping up at 6 a.m. with the best of them."

9

You'll Meet More Puppies

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"You are 100% more likely to meet amazing dogs by walking or running outside than you are sitting at your desk," observes Jeanette DePatie, a certified fitness trainer and author of The Fat Chick Works Out!

What more could you need? And for some great ways to get started, don't miss The Secret Trick for Walking for Exercise, According to Harvard.

William Mayle
William Mayle is a UK-based writer who specializes in science, health, fitness, and other lifestyle topics. Read more