Short exercise bursts produce "striking" effects on metabolic health
That regular exercise promotes good health is a given, but lately scientists are beginning to unearth some of the intricate mechanisms behind this relationship. A new study has shone a light on short bursts of vigorous exercise specifically, finding that they can produce “striking” effects on the metabolites circulating through the body and by extension lead to improvements in a wide range of bodily functions.
From boosting the body’s ability to attack cancer, to enhancing learning, and protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, recent research is continuing to show us just how far-reaching the benefits of regular exercise can be. The new study carried out by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital sought to explore how it affects metabolic function, and the knock-on effects of health more generally.
“Much is known about the effects of exercise on cardiac, vascular and inflammatory systems of the body, but our study provides a comprehensive look at the metabolic impact of exercise by linking specific metabolic pathways to exercise response variables and long-term health outcomes,” says senior author Gregory Lewis. “What was striking to us was the effects a brief bout of exercise can have on the circulating levels of metabolites that govern such key bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity.”
Lewis and his team arrived at this conclusion after examining data from a heart study concerning 411 middle-aged men and women. The team measured levels of 588 circulating metabolites both before and immediately after 12-minute bouts of vigorous exercise, and found beneficial changes in a whole host of them. Eighty percent of circulating metabolites were impacted in all, but the team pinpointed a few with particularly favorable outcomes.
One of those was glutamate, a metabolite linked to diabetes, heart disease and decreased longevity, which saw a 29 percent drop. Another is the metabolite DMGV, which is linked to heightened risk of diabetes and liver disease and declined by 18 percent. The scientists found that these metabolic responses appeared to also be impacted by other factors, such as sex and body mass index.
“Intriguingly, our study found that different metabolites tracked with different physiologic responses to exercise, and might therefore provide unique signatures in the bloodstream that reveal if a person is physically fit, much the way current blood tests determine how well the kidney and liver are functioning,” notes co-first author Matthew Nayor. “Lower levels of DMGV, for example, could signify higher levels of fitness.”
Conveniently, the data from the heart study spans back to 1948 and covers three generations of subjects. This meant the team could retroactively apply the technique to study long-term metabolic health in the earlier participants, and even predict their future state of health and how long they would likely live for.
“We’re starting to better understand the molecular underpinnings of how exercise affects the body and use that knowledge to understand the metabolic architecture around exercise response patterns,” says co-first author Ravi Shah. “This approach has the potential to target people who have high blood pressure or many other metabolic risk factors in response to exercise, and set them on a healthier trajectory early in their lives.”
The research was published in the journal Circulation.
Source: Massachusetts General Hospital