The mitochondria produce energy to fuel everyday activities such as walking.
Every cell in your body contains organelles. These structures play a role similar to your organs. Each of them has a specific task. Organelles called "mitochondria" mix oxygen and food to generate energy for your daily activities and bodily processes. Mitochondria work as a network within skeletal muscle cells. Interestingly, disease and aging change your mitochondria. They alter their creation, shape, repair and cleaning, according to a July 2017 article in eLife. Biologists seek medications to stop these unwanted changes. Yet, you may already have access to an effective treatment. Aerobic exercise can prevent age-related mitochondrial changes.
Exercise motivates your body to make more mitochondria and repair damaged structures.
Make More with Exercise
The normal aging process decreases your body's ability to make mitochondria. This decrease places you at risk for age-related diseases like diabetes. Fortunately, positively challenging your body can make new mitochondria. This process, mitochondrial biogenesis, offers a way to combat aging. The authors of a July 2018 paper in Sports Medicine looked at the relationship between exercise and mitochondria. They showed that aerobic exercise affects mitochondrial biogenesis in a predictable way. The harder you work out, the more mitochondria you create. Increases up to 50 percent show up within a few months. You must, however, remain committed to the exercise program. Your mitochondrial levels will quickly decrease when you stop exercising. In fact, they return to normal levels within about a month.
Change in Shape
Aerobic exercise does more than just change mitochondrial biogenesis. It also changes mitochondrial morphology or shape. Aerobic exercise first causes the organelles to swell and break. Your body, however, will quickly repair this damage. And, after healing, your mitochondria will have a greater volume. They will also form a larger and stronger matrix, according to a January 2018 review in Antioxidants. The researchers speculated that the stronger matrix lets your body more effectively send essential molecules to the areas most needing repair.
Facilitate Mitochondrial Repair
Mitochondrial repair occurs in a daily cycle of fission and fusion. Chronic health conditions like obesity can alter this important cycle. A November 2017 paper in the Korean Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology reviewed the impact of obesity and exercise on mitochondrial repair. The scientists noted that obesity shifts the fission-fusion balance. Normal-weight mice have equal fission and fusion. Overweight mice, in contrast, have too much fission. Excess fission triggers the unwanted death of important cells and their organelles. The authors also showed that aerobic exercise protects your body from mitochondrial dysfunction. Exercise achieves these effects by decreasing fission proteins and increasing fusion proteins. These changes restore the fission-fusion balance.
Clean it Up
If the repair system fails, a cleaning process known as "mitophagy" takes over. This process does more than just clean, it also audits with a goal of having the proper balance of mitochondrial cells. An October 2017 report in the Journal of Physiology described the critical role of mitochondrial cleaning in all bodily processes. It also explored the relationship between mitophagy and exercise. The researchers showed that aerobic exercise increases the proteins needed to build several mitophagy genes and that blocking the cleaning process prevents the many benefits of physical activity. Taken together, these data show that aerobic exercise improves mitochondrial dynamics.