By Dev Mishra, M.D.
President, Sideline Sports Doc
Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University
I’m sure pretty much everyone knows that exercise is a good thing and makes us fitter and better. The right kind of exercise will make you feel better, look better, and likely add to your healthspan. But the exact mechanisms that lead from exercise to better health are surprisingly hard to pinpoint.
A recently published scientific studyshows that certain groups of proteins in the body are present in larger quantities in people who exercise regularly, suggesting that the proteins are somehow responsible for actions leading to improved health status. This study did now investigate cause and effect, but it sheds light on a previously poorly understood area. The field of “proteomics”- the study of body proteins and their functions- may lead to exciting discoveries in exercise science.
Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder performed the study. The first study group was comprised of 31 healthy young men and women, about half of whom exercised regularly, while the rest did not. They also recruited an additional group of 16 healthy middle-aged and older men, half of whom were physically active and half of whom were sedentary. So this study was a snapshot in time comparison of people who performed regular aerobic exercise vs. those who were physically inactive.
They collected blood samples from the study participants and analyzed for more than 1000 blood proteins. From the analysis they were able to find 10 groups of proteins that they arranged into patterns or modules.
The researchers were able to find 5 specific protein patterns associated with aerobic exercise status in adults, as well as 2 modules that were preserved with aging in regularly exercising men. In the groups of regular exercisers patterns were related to biological pathways involved in wound healing, regulation of cell aging, glucose and insulin response, and inflammation/immune responses. Several of the exercise-related protein patterns were associated with physiological and clinical indicators of healthspan, including diastolic blood pressure, insulin resistance, VO2max, blood vessel function.
This is a unique study that allows us to start digging deeper into the specific processes that take place during exercise and ultimately improve health status. Future studies will need to take a look at cause and effect. How do the protein markers change when taking a sedentary person through a regular exercise program? How do the proteins change from various different types of exercise? Ultimately research studies such as this can lead to improved exercise regimens and personalization of an exercise prescription.