The quick answer? If you’re a rodent it can.
Studies around exercise must be some of the most well-funded out there. In the last few months, we’ve reported on several: From how exercise may prevent the common cold to why it’s more effective in the morning. Other recent research has focused on bone density and weight management for women after menopause, and now the New York Times is reporting that it may play a very significant role in slowing the signs of aging. Or, excuse me, stopping them altogether. From the article:
Indeed, in heartening new research published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.
Of course we’ve long-discussed the anti-aging, beauty-amplifying benefits of breaking a sweat—but every sign? Come again, now. According to the article, here’s how the research was conducted:
In the experiment, Dr. Tarnopolsky and his colleagues used lab rodents that carry a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which are tiny organelles within cells. Mitochondria combine oxygen and nutrients to create fuel for the cells — they are microscopic power generators.
This malfunctioning mitochondria would ensure that the subjects age prematurely. And that’s exactly what they did: By the time they hit their 8-month birthdays, which in this study represented about 60 human years, they were decrepid and dying. None of them reached their first birthdays. That is, except the ones that exercised.
Those rodents, who got to run on the wheel for 45 minutes, three times a week, had none of the signs of aging—despite possessing the same predisposition for early aging as the other poor things. Their fur was shiny and didn’t turn gray, their little hearts thumped on beat, their muscle and brain mass remained healthy, and they exhibited amazing coordination. In short, they stayed young—and they all celebrated their first birthdays.
While these epic effects aren’t fully understood (more funding to come!), the results are astounding. Our first three burning questions: 1. Could exercise really put hair dye out of business? 2. How applicable are these results to us bigger mammals? 3. Will a study like this change your exercise habits?