Sweat Yourself Smart
New evidence says exercise can reduce dementia risk
Here at Juvenon, we are fascinated by scientific research that delves into mitochondrial function (AKA your energy metabolism). To that end, we revisit and update our content as we discover exciting new evidence that links exercise with improved mitochondrial function. The proven benefits are many, from better energy and longevity to reduction of dementia risk.
The Mighty Mitochondria
Essentially metabolism is a collection of mitochondria. These are the spark plugs of the cells that are responsible for metabolism. The greater the activity of the cell, the more mitochondria it has. Regardless of their location, when these little dynamos aren’t operating cleanly and efficiently, it impedes your metabolism, resulting in energy slow down throughout your body. This in turn, puts you at risk for a host of illnesses and diseases of aging.
How Exercise Can Repair an Inefficient Metabolism
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that exercise helps your metabolism, but you may be interested to know why.
Aside from burning calories from the food we eat on a daily basis, exercise normalizes our metabolism by establishing balance. Our bodies seek an economy of scale in which certain aspects of physiological strength, capacity, endurance and speed are forfeited when they aren’t regularly called upon. In other words: “use it or lose it.” Similar to a motion-activated light, our physiological and metabolic economy turns off when not in use and only turns on with added function if called upon later.
A vast body of research reveals that exercise dramatically increases the population of mitochondria in our cells, especially in the heart, nervous system and skeletal muscles. Perhaps as important, exercise increases the energy output of mitochondria, which translates into efficient fat burning and fewer damaging free radicals. Lastly, exercise has been found to stimulate the turnover of mitochondria, constantly building new and more efficient mitochondria.
A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that regular aerobic exercise could decrease biological age by 10 years or more. Another study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology explored the topic further and determined that one of the ways aerobic exercise decreases biological age is by improving mitochondrial function aka metabolism.
Exercise Your Legs – Benefit Your Brain
As discussed earlier, scientists believe that exercise stimulates the growth of new healthy mitochondria, and in turn a more efficient metabolism over time. This news has far-reaching implications and it’s not just your body that benefits.
Scientists now believe the primary molecule in the body that stimulates growth of mitochondria – PGC-1alpha – is activated by exercise. This ”exercise molecule” activates the growth of new mitochondria; therefore even older people may enjoy certain aspects of youth, such as strong muscles, endurance and brainpower. When you exercise your legs, for example, PGC-1 alpha is stimulated all over your body. That means that by exercising one part of your body, you can build up the mitochondria all over your body; for example, in the brain. Even older people can have youthfulness – strong muscles, endurance, brains, memory, and energy. People who exercise often look younger, too.
Promising Findings For Alzheimer’s Disease Risk
There is new evidence that physical activity can thwart the mental decline in aging brains. According to the New York Times, little research has tracked individuals over years, while also including actual brain scans. Therefore, recent UCLA research, which looked at 10 years of data and scans from 900 people, who were at least 65, is quite significant.
In a nutshell, the scans showed that the top quartile of active people proved to have substantially more gray matter in those parts of brain related to memory and higher level thinking than their less active peers. Additionally, those who upped their physical activity over a five-year period showed notable increases in important gray-matter volume.
“Perhaps, more meaningful, people who had more gray matter correlated with physical activity also had 50 percent less risk five years later of having experienced memory decline or having developed Alzheimer’s,” the newspaper reported.
Cyrus Raji, the lead author, adds that for purposes of the study, physical activity includes walking, jogging, cycling, as well as dancing and even gardening.
“If we want to live a long time, but also keep our memories, our basic selves, intact, keep moving,” Raji stated in the New York Times article.
To be sure, age and genetics both play into how efficiently one’s individual metabolism works. Still, a healthy metabolism’s trickiest adversary just may be our modern lifestyles. Sadly, our lives feature little or no exercise. Not exactly the best route to a humming metabolism.
Fortunately, there are some simple, scientifically proven changes that you can make to your lifestyle. If you don’t exercise already, there is no time like the present to start. To up your metabolic game even more, consider interval training, which has been found to be as effective as longer workouts.
In the coming months, the Juvenon Health Journal will explore other methods that can help improve your mitochondrial function.