It turns out that the secret to eternal youth might not be as elusive as you think.
Researchers at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario released the results of a study which indicated that regular exercise can not only keep you in shape, it can actually stave off the effects of aging.
The research team analyzed groups of mice who had been genetically altered to prematurely age. One group was forced to run on a treadmill for 45 minutes, three times a week. The other mice were kept sedentary.
After 5 months, the mice who were forced to exercise were found to be young-looking, sleek-coated and healthy, with the effects of aging virtually non-existent in any of their organs. In contrast, the sedentary mice were greying, slow-moving, socially isolated and less fertile.
“Every part of the body was protected by exercise,” said Dr Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. “I think that exercise is the most potent anti-aging therapy available today and likely forever.”
The genetic manipulation of the mice – and the key to the study – is rooted in their mitochondrial DNA. The mitochondria is the “power plant” inside each cell that burns in order to give our body energy. As we age, our mitochondrial DNA accumulates mutations, thus leading to weaker “power plants” and negative effects on our tissues and organs. This leads to the physical manifestations of aging.
The mice were manipulated to have a mitochondrial dysfunction, which led to them die about twice as fast as normal mice and show strong signs of aging, including physical and mental deterioration and organ failure. However, forcing the mice to exercise regularly effectively neutralized the mitochondrial dysfunction and arrested the expected signs of aging shown in the other group.
So while humans aren’t mice, and the study is by no means conclusive, it’s also compelling: You already know exercise is good for your heart and your soul. And now, it’s good for your longevity.
So what are you waiting for? Get off the internet and go for a walk.
Photo credit: Martineric on Flickr