Everyone knows that exercise is good for them and that people who exercise are generally healthier than those who do not. But can exercise prolong your life? And if so, HOW does it prolong life? The present day scientific theory is that exercise prolongs your life by causing your body to dispose of free radicals with the increased natural production of its own antioxidants.
Why Exercise Can Prolong Your Life
The free-radical theory of aging states that organisms age because cells accumulate free radical damage over time. A free radical is any atom or molecule that has a single unpaired electron in an outer shell. Most biologically-relevant free radicals are highly reactive. Free radical damage is closely associated with oxidative damage. Antioxidants limit oxidative damage to cells by neutralizing free radicals.
Exercise speeds up the reactions that turn food into energy, so exercise actually increases the production of free radicals. But wait, you thought that exercise was a good thing, right? Wait—it is. It turns out that your body responds to this increased production of free radicals during exercise by producing large amounts of natural antioxidants that soak up the free radicals and make them harmless.
OK, now for some Biology 101…. Most cells in your body have mitochondria, very small energy-producing chambers that number in the thousands. As you age, the mitochondria in muscle cells decrease in number and size. This in turn makes it harder for your body to burn sugar efficiently for energy, so they produce more free radicals. It turns out that you can increase the number and size of cellular mitochondria. The answer is exercise. Exercising helps to prevent loss of mitochondria and even makes them larger!
But wait, there’s more! It turns out that as you age, you also lose your ability to make an enzyme called AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK.) This enzyme functions to increase mitochondria in muscles (Cell Metabolism, February 2007). Anything that reduces the number or efficiency of mitochondria interferes with your body’s ability to burn sugar for energy. When this happens, your blood sugar rises, and fat and cholesterol levels also rise. The extra sugar that is not burned accumulates in your body as fat in your muscles, liver and fat cells.
It then becomes a vicious circle. The extra fat in cells block the cell’s ability to absorb sugar from the blood stream, so blood sugar levels rise even more. That puts you at increased risk for developing Type II insulin-dependent diabetes. The extra fat in the liver prevents the liver from removing extra insulin from the blood stream. As insulin levels rise, they constrict arteries, which can cause heart attacks. Insulin also makes you hungrier, which increases your chances of gaining weight. So how do you increase AMPK? You guessed it—exercise!
In summary, vigorous exercise prolongs your life by increasing the number and size of mitochondria in your muscle cells. Weight training is the best way to tax all of the muscles in your body. Spread that love around by exercising ALL of your muscles, not just the ones involved in one particular form of exercise such as running. Then feed your body all of the important nutrients that it needs for recovery. If you are looking for an all-in-one nutritional solution for getting lean and feeding that all-important muscle tissue, then you owe it to yourself to check out Lean Body meal replacement shakes at