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How Exercise Prevents Disease

We all seem to believe that exercise is good for us, but how do we know that? In case you were looking for some science for that claim, you now have some. “Good for you” usually means preventing problems. Scientists have proven many times that exercise can prevent many diseases and other physical problems, but rarely have they attempted to explain exactly how this process works. A recent report published in the journal Nature offers an answer.

 

Study Links Exercise and Disease Prevention

Researchers led by Dr. Levine of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical studied a process called autophagy. Autophagy is where extra or worn cellular material is removed from the cells and the body. When the mice in their study ran on a treadmill for thirty minutes, the researchers found that autophagy increased significantly, and continued to increase, even when exercise lasted up to eighty minutes. These results were then compared to results from a group of mice that went through the same routines, but only after their genes were modified to disable the autophagy process. This second group of mice showed less endurance and less efficient elimination of blood sugar than the first group did, but still showed significant improvement. Moreover, when this second group was given a diet designed to induce diabetes, the beneficial effects of the exercise ceased. This suggests preventive effects of exercise for diabetes.

 

The researchers suggest that the effects of autophagy are not limited to diabetes. The process has been shown at work in the healing of infections and also seems to be involved in Alzheimer’s disease. Autophagy also has implications for the aging process. As shown by animal studies, it is increasingly accepted that restricting caloric intake slows the aging process. It makes sense that the mechanism involved in restricting calories is increased autophagy. To put it simplistically, maybe getting rid of cellular waste more quickly allows remaining cells to operate more effectively.

 

Apparently, the researchers are like the rest of us and do not like to restrict calories. However, Levine does believe that exercise can produce these same effects. She regularly runs on a treadmill. In fact, she is conducting another study to test this new hypothesis that exercise produces effects similar to calorie restriction, and that the cause of these effects are high rates of autophagy.

 

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