Exercise benefits the body in ways even the scientific and medical communities are only beginning to understand. Julian Omidi discusses the cellular changes that occur (for the better) after engaging in rigorous exercise.
We take the many physiological benefits of exercise for granted; all we know is that exercise equals fitness, and the finer scientific can, and often do, remain a mystery. But in order to determine exactly what kind of exercise causes the most benefit, and how exercise might help us in ways that don’t necessarily relate to weight loss but also overall health, we must first examine what exercise does to the body at a molecular level.
According to a recent study published by the medical journal PLoS One, exercise can affect what is known as methylation, the phenomenon where carbon and hydrogen atoms attach to a gene and affect how that gene receives signals from its environment. In this study, it was revealed that, even after one workout, the cell in the muscles were changing their methylation patterns, altering the cells expression of protein, and changing the metabolic rate and affecting the risk factors for diabetes and obesity.1
It was found that vigorous exercise caused the most radical changes in the cells; when two groups were asked to pedal a stationary bicycle until 400 calories were burned, the group that pedaled longer but at a relaxed pace showed fewer methylation pattern changes than the group that pedaled vigorously.
The research didn’t test what effects weight training had on gene patterns, nor did the researchers determine whether or not these particular changes are actually inheritable – even though methylation patterns can actually be passed down to children. If it is possible for such changes to be passed on to offspring, the fight against obesity might be given a powerful new weapon.
Even though we might not ever determine the many millions of effects exercise might have on our cells, we can be sure that the human animal is meant to move, not remain stationary. For the past century, when we have invented conveniences for every type of activity and our means of survival moved towards labor of the brain and away from labor of the body, we have experienced an explosion of health conditions that were previously only seen in the very old and infirm. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and strokes were unheard of in people under the age of 50 only 50 years ago. Today, physicians are seeing teenagers and young adults suffering from obesity-related cardiovascular issues, diabetes and GERD. If the obesity epidemic continues to spread, we may be entering an era where our children are not expected to live as long as their parents.
1Reynolds, Gretchen: How Exercise Changes Fat and Muscle Cells New York Times 7/31/2013 http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/how-exercise-changes-fat-and-muscle-cells/