Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Science Behind Exercise

Human Endurance

Many individuals exercise, and they know they derive health benefits from it. After all, that's what physicians and the medical community have been saying for years. Yet, why it is beneficial—at least as explained by science—has long remained a bit of a mystery. An article in The Economist, however might give a better scientific understanding on why exercise is good for you.
[A] paper just published in Nature by Beth Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre and her colleagues sheds some light on the matter.Dr Levine and her team were testing a theory that exercise works its magic, at least in part, by promoting autophagy. This process, whose name is derived from the Greek for “self-eating”, is a mechanism by which surplus, worn-out or malformed proteins and other cellular components are broken up for scrap and recycled.
To carry out the test, Dr Levine turned to those stalwarts of medical research, genetically modified mice. Her first batch of rodents were tweaked so that their autophagosomes—structures that form around components which have been marked for recycling—glowed green. After these mice had spent half an hour on a treadmill, she found that the number of autophagosomes in their muscles had increased, and it went on increasing until they had been running for 80 minutes.
To find out what, if anything, this exercise-boosted autophagy was doing for mice, the team engineered a second strain that was unable to respond this way. Exercise, in other words, failed to stimulate their recycling mechanism. When this second group of modified mice were tested alongside ordinary ones, they showed less endurance and had less ability to take up sugar from their bloodstreams.
There were longer-term effects, too. In mice, as in people, regular exercise helps prevent diabetes. But when the team fed their second group of modified mice a diet designed to induce diabetes, they found that exercise gave no protection at all. Dr Levine and her team reckon their results suggest that manipulating autophagy may offer a new approach to treating diabetes. And their research is also suggestive in other ways. Autophagy is a hot topic in medicine, as biologists have come to realise that it helps protect the body from all kinds of ailments.
The benefits of such studies to improve the health of individuals are potentially huge; the more we understand the human body and the mechanisms which control it—such as autophagy—the better Medicine can come up with treatments and cures for many of the diseases that ail us. More so,  it's not only about living longer but also about living longer with good to excellent health. So, such research, if it unlocks the mysteries of what makes us "tick," can also lead to individuals who live healthier lives well into their nineties, or longer. That is good news, indeed.

You can read the rest of the article at [The Economist]