Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I'd Like A Mouse Treadmill Please!

I don't like to pick fights (I think of myself as a lover/healer...I am in the health care profession after all), but I do enjoy lively debates, especially when it comes to topics related to health and wellness. One such topic I often find myself engaged in lively discussion about relates to the general public's perception of the positive and negative health benefits of exercise, particularly endurance exercise. I would be a very rich man if I had a dime for each time I responded to the remark "I don't run because it's bad for my knees" or "isn't there a pill I could take, a procedure that could be performed, or anything someone else could do to make this (insert your preferred condition here)better for me?"

Let's pause for a minute while I step up on my soap box...Yes I believe that we have found ourself in a culture that for the most part expects/hopes/looks for someone else to improve their condition. An unfortunate state. On the other hand I do believe in the bodies amazing ability to remain healthy through the decades of life when it is taken care of properly. There is no magic here folks, it just requires a little hard work and discipline. I often say to people "what do you think would happen if you stopped changing the oil and rotating the tires of your car and drive it 100,000 miles?" Everyone looks at me like I am goofy and replies in a matter of fact way that it would surely "break down!" Well, that's what most individuals do to their bodies.

So when a study came out this past week that found "Endurance exercise may be the fountain of youth" (for mice at least)I was pretty excited! Here's a quick run down of the study findings which was conducted by researchers from McMaster University in Canada.

The investigators split mice that were genetically engineered to age faster than normal mice into two groups, an endurance exercise group and a control group (no exercise). Here's what they found...

Mice who ran on a treadmill (yes they really did build a mouse treadmill!) 3x/week for 5 months looked as young as regular mice. On the other hand, the mice in the control group who didn't exercise demonstrated socially isolated behavior, were less fertile and began graying and balding as well. The researcher's concluded that the exercise offered protection against premature aging. I can hear many individuals now asking "where's the pill for that?" Sorry to disappoint many of you, but the principle investigator, Mark Tarnopolsky, said in the paper's discussion that "Many people falsely believe that the benefits of exercise will be found in a pill." Tarnopolsky, went on to say "We have clearly shown that there is no substitute for the 'real thing' of exercise when it comes to protection from aging." The investigators even tried to treat these animals with an "'exercise pill' and have even looked at reducing their caloric intake, a strategy felt to be the most effective for slowing aging, and these were met with limited success."

So, there's a little more evidence that consistent exercise is at the roots of our health and can truly be the fountain of youth! Now, doing it properly to avoid overuse injuries and the all too frequent weekend warrior syndrome...that's another story all together.

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