Exercise & Aging
September 26, 2016
Exercise is like a drug for many Americans and clearly a way to obtain clarity when one feels mentally cloudy. I find that running or playing soccer opens up my creative mind and provides me exceptional thoughts that at other times I struggle to find.
In a fabulous Time Magazine article a few weeks ago, Mandy Oaklander explored the effects of exercise on human disease. She discussed the profound mammalian research of Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky. His lab published a 2011 study in PNAS that outlined the effects of exercise on a group of mice that are genetically set up to age rapidly, akin to Progeria in humans.
After reading his 2011 research, we learn that these aging mice halt this decline when they undergo endurance exercise for 5 months versus a control sedentary group. In mice speak, these animals exercised on a wheel going 15 meters/minute for 45 minutes 3 times a week. This time frame mirrors human recommendations for exercise.
At the core science level, his group showed that the endurance exercise increased the synthesis, capacity and overall function of the bodies cellular energy powerhouse known as the mitochondria. When mitochondria fail to perform, we suffer fatigue of all cells including those in our muscles, brain and skin. He hypothesized that the exercise caused a selective mitochondrial biogenesis of the healthy mitochondria and repair of weakened cells while targeting unhealthy ones for programmed cell death.
They further go on to state that, "our data clearly support endurance exercise as a medicine and a lifestyle approach to improving systemic mitochondrial function, which is critical for reducing morbidity and mortality across the lifespan."
Anything that prematurely decays or degrades a cell's mitochondria, whether it be genetics, chemical exposure, poor quality diet, sedentary behavior, etc..., has a profound negative consequence on aging for all mammals. As a human, I would like like to live for a long time, assuming that I am of sound mind of course! Therefore, anything that can maximize mitochondrial function sounds good to me.
Back to Mandy Oaklander's article where she interviewed Dr. Tarnopolsky about his new research, his recent comments were startling. When his group performed autopsies on the mice after being blinded to the exercise versus sedentary nature of the animals, they found that they could predict the movement pattern based on the animals fat content and tumor incidence.
""As for the mice who hit the wheel every day? "We haven't found a single tumor," he says. " I think if people saw, they'd be pretty motivated to exercise.""
What we need is motivation for all Americans to kick the couch habit, video game time warp and general lack of desire to move. Maybe this research will nudge a few to change.
The pediatricians prescription for exercise needs to be: 1) that we exercise multiple days a week. 2) should combine weight training/physical labor with some form of exercise or physically activity that significantly increases your heart rate and causes you to sweat - preferably profusely! Prepubertal children can only use very light weight loads but can exercise to sweat ad nauseam. Check out these good target zones for heart rate. 3) Especially as we age, weighted work/exercise is critical for maintaining healthy muscle mass and bone density. With correct bone/muscle density, we are less likely to suffer a fall or injury that will hasten the demise through infections like pneumonia.
For the older and elderly population, I HIGHLY recommend a personal trainer with knowledge on quality exercise routines that hit on the above ideals. It will be some of the best ROI for your money, longer life.
Boiling it down - It is abundantly clear that our children should be exercising every day in school and afterward. Read the book Spark by John Ratey, MD. Peak mental performance comes from the effects of physical activity. We need to keep pushing for later school start times so they can sleep, mandatory physical education for all kids, better food and finally to let them learn by trial and error.
A shout out to Michelle Mudge and other young professionals that are crafting ways to get our youth moving and eating well while having fun.
Run, jog, sprint, walk and then crawl your way to a few extra years of loving those that you love by being alive still,