We all know that exercise is good for us because it keeps our body healthy, our minds clear, and us feeling great. But did you know that exercise can keep you young? Not just in the typical sense of making you feel young either, but can physically keep you younger. Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University, and his colleagues have discovered through an experiment involving genetically mutated rodents that exercise can actually keep you younger.
In the experiment Dr. Tarnopolsky and his team use lab rats that contained a genetic mutation that negatively affected how their bodies repaired malfunctioning mitochondria, which are the power generators of the body, causing the rats to age at an accelerated rate. By the time the rodents were 8 months of age (early 60s in human terms) some exhibited frail bodies, spindly muscles, shrunken brains, enlarged hearts, shriveled gonads and patchy and graying fur. During their lifetime these rats rarely stayed active and as a result died before their first year. The only subjects that didn't die were the ones that were allowed to exercise.
These rats, who underwent the same mitochondria altering treatment as the ones who died, showed outstanding physical capabilities even after 8 months of age. Starting when they were 3 months old these mice ran on a wheel for 45 minutes three times a week for 5 months. Every time the ran they were required to run at an alert pace, equivalent to a human running a 50-55 minute 10K (6.2 miles) race. When they reached 8 months the active subjects were compared in an analysis against their inactive counterparts, and while the torpid rodents displayed obvious signs of aging the more youthful ones did not. Instead they had full pelts of colorful fur, they maintained almost all of their brain volume and muscle mass, their gonads and hearts were normal, and they still had excellent balance control. Yet despite this overwhelming amount of evidence what really surprised the researchers was that despite their mutation, these rats had healthier and a greater quantity of mitochondria than the inactive rats. They had also continued to discover that exercise not only improved mitochondria and muscle health, but it also affected every tissue and bodily functioned they studied.