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How exercise boosts health

1st June 2010

Ten minutes of exercise is enough to keep people healthy for an hour, according to a recent US study.

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The researchers found ways of timing the metabolic changes accompanied by exercise, which reduced people's chances of getting heart disease or becoming diabetic.

Robert Gerszten of Massachusetts General Hospital, whose research team worked on the study, said that his field of metabolomics was only beginning to catalogue the metabolic variability between people.

In the study, the researchers measured blood levels of various metabolites, which control things like blood-sugar levels, in people who were unfit, fit, and extremely fit.

People who were not fit tended to have shortness of breath, a symptom of heart disease.

Niacinamide was one metabolite that seemed to increase when people exercised.

Other metabolites were released when people broke down fat, and they were encountered in greater numbers among people who were fit.

People who were less fit or short of breath tended not to have as many fat metabolites in their blood.

In order to get a deeper understanding of how fat metabolites affect people's health, the researchers studied 25 marathoners.

They found that people who were extremely fit, like the marathoners, had 10 times as many fat metabolites in their blood as people who tended to be short of breath.

The researchers were also able to predict the outcome of the race using the metabolites as a key.

They used levels of fat metabolites to predict which runners would have finished the race in under four hours and which would have lagged behind the others.

Gerszten said that metabolomics allowed people to have a chemical snapshot of what made people fit, allowing them to someday fight heart disease.

For the initial study, the researchers put 70 healthy people on a treadmill, and measured their levels of metabolites.

The researchers had a list of 20 metabolites they had studied in depth, all of which change while the body is exerting itself.

In general, metabolites that did not involve digesting fat decreased during exercise.

But most of the metabolic changes that exercise triggered went back to normal after an hour had passed.

Gerszten said that people who exercised for ten minutes kept benefiting from the exercise for at least one hour after.

Debbie Muoio of Duke University Medical Center, who is also a metabolomics researcher, said that she was preparing a study in 25 older adults using one of the body's metabolites.

She said that she wanted to see if supplementing people with carnitine, a metabolite, would help them to become healthier, and lead health professionals toward a system of 'personalised medicine.'


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