Numerous studies have long established the many benefits of regular exercise, such as building strength and losing weight. Working out also promises cardiovascular advantages, although the exact way in which exercise benefits the heart still needs to be explored and understood, especially on the cellular level. A recent study however suggests that exercise increases the protein in the mitochondria, resulting in improved cardiovascular health.
The study, published in the Journal of Proteome Research, highlighted preliminary findings that exercise increases the protein content in the heart cells’ mitochondria - a structure that produces energy needed by the body. But before we delve into the mechanism of how this happens, let us first take a look at mitochondria.
What are mitochondria?
Mitochondria are regarded as the powerhouses of cells, because they produce adenosine triphosphate or ATP, which serves as the cells' fuel. ATP is important for many life-sustaining processes happening in cells, such as respiration. This energy is also responsible for an individual’s capacity to exercise, and particularly for endurance training.
How does boosting mitochondria benefit heart health?
In the study the researchers experimented on two groups of mice. One group were put in a treadmill exercise regimen for 54 weeks, while the other group of mice didn’t do any exercise at all.
The researchers noticed that the mice who engaged in regular exercise had higher levels of two proteins - RAF kinase and p38 kinase - in the mitochondria cells in their hearts. These two proteins have been found to trigger beneficial cardiovascular effects, which explains why exercise benefits the heart.
How else can exercise affect mitochondria?
Aside from making the heart healthy, exercise also affects the mitochondria in other ways. For instance, a study on aging adults revealed that mitochondria content decreases as one ages. However, those who exercise regularly do not experience this reduction, hence their mitochondria function remains steady and does not decline. Furthermore, continuous exercise stimulates mitochondria growth, making older adults feel energized.
Aside from boosting the mitochondria in heart and muscle cells, exercise also increases the mitochondria cells in the brain. This results in positive mental effects, such as improving memory and concentration and relieving anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the brain is made more resistant to fatigue, which results in better physical performance. Because of these benefits, exercise can become a potential treatment for psychiatric and neurologic disorders.
By targeting the mitochondria in the heart, muscle, and brain cells, exercise could help prevent a number of diseases, especially for the aging population. A 30-minute jog every day can produce wonders in the long run. Make exercise a habit and you will reap its benefits as you age.
If you are looking to learn more about how to exercise in the right way, contact us today or join one of our classes to find out for yourself.