behavior · brain · cognition · health · play

Make your cells cleaner by exercising

Cells stained for keratin and DNA: such parts ...
For cleaner cells, work up a sweat. Image via Wikipedia

We joke about getting the cobwebs out of our brain, but it turns out there really is some truth to that. And one of the best ways to give our bodies a thorough spring (or winter, or fall…) cleaning, is not through cleansing diets or saunas, but exercise! It’s beneficial on so many levels, including making you cleaner and a better environment for yourself down to the cellular level!

In the new research, which was published last month in Nature, scientists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas gathered two groups of mice. One set was normal, with a finely tuned cellular scrubbing system. The other had been bred to have a blunted cleaning system.

It’s long been known that cells accumulate flotsam from the wear and tear of everyday living. Broken or misshapen proteins, shreds of cellular membranes, invasive viruses or bacteria, and worn-out, broken-down cellular components, like aged mitochondria, the tiny organelles within cells that produce energy, form a kind of trash heap inside the cell.

In most instances, cells diligently sweep away this debris. They even recycle it for fuel. Through a process with the expressive name of autophagy, or “self-eating,” cells create specialized membranes that engulf junk in the cell’s cytoplasm and carry it to a part of the cell known as the lysosome, where the trash is broken apart and then burned by the cell for energy.

Without this efficient system, cells could become choked with trash and malfunction or die. In recent years, some scientists have begun to suspect that faulty autophagy mechanisms contribute to the development of a range of diseases, including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The slowing of autophagy as we reach middle age is also believed to play a role in aging.

Read the full article at the New York Times: Exercise as Housecleaning for the Body

The best part is it doesn’t seem to matter what kind of exercise, so anything from hop scotch to marathons will give you some benefit!