Friday, March 4, 2011

Exercise alters the course of aging - New study reported in NY Times

I don't know why people would invest in cosmetic surgery or other passive anti-aging endeavors without first doing the thing that is most obvious, exercise. And I'm not talking easy exercise. I'm talking about the stuff that makes our hearts pounds, our faces flush and our muscles burn. I see a huge difference in how people age based on the level of strenuous physical activity they've been consistent with. It is quite incredible to see how visible differences in vitality are when you stand two people beside each other, one who sweats and pushes themselves and another who has been relatively sedentary or engaged in more gentle physical activities.

But too often what seems obvious needs to be backed up my scientific evidence for people to believe it.

Taken from New York Times article "Can exercise keep you young?"

We all know that physical activity is beneficial in countless ways, but even so, Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely.

But shiny fur was the least of its benefits. Indeed, in heartening new research published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.

In the experiment, Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lab rodents that carry a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which are tiny organelles within cells. Mitochondria combine oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for the cells — they are microscopic power generators.

Mitochrondria have their own DNA, distinct from the cell’s own genetic material, and they multiply on their own. But in the process, mitochondria can accumulate small genetic mutations, which under normal circumstances are corrected by specialized repair systems within the cell. Over time, as we age, the number of mutations begins to outstrip the system’s ability to make repairs, and mitochondria start malfunctioning and dying.

Many scientists consider the loss of healthy mitochondria to be an important underlying cause of aging in mammals. As resident mitochondria falter, the cells they fuel wither or die. Muscles shrink, brain volume drops, hair falls out or loses its pigmentation, and soon enough we are, in appearance and beneath the surface, old.

Now the next question I would have is, can people reverse the signs of aging with vigorous exercise. Well, unless you've fallen into complete resignation, I would say it's worth giving it a go at any age.

But as Sara-Clare stated on her facebook status a few days ago:

Get busy living or get busy dying


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