We are well aware that exercise is important in not just helping us get fit and stay fit, but also keep illnesses and other pathological conditions away. Exercising raises your fitness level, reduces your risks of many diseases, lengthens your lifespan, keeps your heart healthy and other seemingly magical properties.
But how does it really do that? How does hitting the gym keep the doctor away?
Proteins, The Unsung Heroes
According to an interesting new study into the well-being of sedentary and active people, people who exercise have very different proteins moving around the body through their bloodstreams as compared to their not-so-active counterparts.
These proteins are behind many of our body’s functions, ranging from immune systems and blood glucose regulation to healing and recovery. The findings of this study shed new light into our understanding of how exercise enhances our standard of living from a cellular level.
Although exercise has been touted for decades as one of the best, easiest (well, in certain ways) and basic way to stay healthy, scientists and experts are surprisingly lacking in full knowledge in how it achieves that; the underlying and sophisticated physiological dynamics remain an enigma.
In recent years, these scientists and experts have gradually become more interested in studying how molecules related to various bodily processes functions and work together. One such study is “proteomics”, the identification and study of proteins and how they are expressed genetically and affect physiological processes.
Proteins’ Effects, Under The Microscope
Until recently, there had been almost no knowledge of the proteomics of active persons who exercise regularly and how it differs from people who ‘hibernate’ all year in their couches, beds and work chairs. So researchers at the University of Colorado, Boulder, set up a new study, which was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, to look at people’s proteins.
The study aimed to look for the presence of about 1,100 proteins with health-related biological functions, and also for physiological indicators of whether certain of these proteins had been expressed and activated at the same time or shared any relations.
The researchers gathered a sample size of 31 healthy young men and women and 16 healthy middle-aged and older folks; half of the participants exercised regularly and the other half led sedentary lives. Everyone’s fitness and certain health markers were measured, these include blood pressure and insulin regulation, as well as drawing blood samples for proteomics analysis.
It was found that about 800 of these proteins in their blood samples showed evidence that they were interrelated. The researchers also concluded that these proteins work together in tandem to perform various bodily functions. What is remarkable is that many of the 800 proteins are those involved in process related to health like inflammation control and immune responses.
Diving Deeper Into Proteomics
The researchers also discovered correlations in the protein make-up between similar people. Those who exercised and have similar levels of various proteins also have a tendency to possess healthy blood pressure and insulin responses, with the opposite just as true for the inactive participants. The data suggest that changes in these proteins and their levels are very likely crucial to the complicated process of how working out leads to health and wellness.
However, it is still far from certain what molecular messages causes the body to produce these proteins after exercise, or how these proteins start whole chains of biological reactions that lead to certain effects.
Rev Your Engines For Those Proteins
Now that there is stronger evidence of how exercise is our body’s natural ‘antibiotics’ and ‘health serums’, we have listed three simple heart-pumping workouts that do not require a gym membership to dust that unused engine of yours.
Stand upright with both feet hip-width apart and core muscles tight. Raise your right knee up as you bring your left arm forward and hop off the left foot. Land on the balls of your left foot, not the heel, then immediately bring your right foot down as you repeat. The height, not speed, is your focus.
Stand with your right foot forward, left foot backward for balance and hips facing the front. With your right hand, punch upwards and leftwards in quick succession for fifteen to twenty repetitions. Repeat with the left arm and alternate leg forward. Maintain slightly-bent knees and a tight core. There you have it, your own in-house body combat session without the price tag.
This is another one of the age-old ones. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and jog on the spot by bringing one knee up as close to your chest as possible in alternating fashion as quickly as you can. If for some reason jogging on the spot is not for you (e.g. recovering from light injuries, petty ailments, neighbours downstairs who will call the cops on you at the slightest noise), do this as a march, using your core muscles to pull your knees up.