If you’re still reluctant to get up off your rear end and start moving, science has come up with a new reason to get hit the road. Exercise appears to keep your bone marrow from becoming too flabby.

The cells in your bone marrow, called mesenchymal stem cells, are found in the bone marrow of all animals, and are waiting for certain molecular signals to tell them to transform into either bone cells, fat cells, or something else. Once a stem cell differentiates, it can no longer be changed into a different kind of cell; once a fat cell, always a fat cell, once a bone cell, always a bone cell, etc. If a stem cell becomes a fat cell, the portion of the skeleton to which it might have attached gets a little bit weaker. In a study published late last year by scientists at USC, the thigh bones (femurs) of healthy adults, some in their 20’s, others past age 55, were scanned with MRI’s. The researchers found that in both young and old, the amount of fat in the marrow of the leg bone was inversely related to the amount of bone; the more fat in the marrow, the less bone. Not an ideal situation.

The next question-what makes a stem cell decide what it will become, and does exercise play a role? The answer is yes.When the mesenchymal cells were stimulated with vibrations, such as occur during walking, etc, they did not all become fat cells. And, it appears that when activity is split up into more than one session, more stem cells were induced into bone cells. For instance, rather than walk for an hour, two half-hour or three 20 minute walks.

The cells that were not stimulated converted very easily into fat cells. As Dr. Rubin, the lead researcher said, “It’s discouragingly easy to nudge them in that direction.” The lesson here is, don’t sit still any more than you need to, and don’t let your kids loll around either. If you make fat cells when you’re young, you’ve lost the opportunity to have that cell be bone-it will remain fat, forever.

Add figs to your diet if you want better health. Figs are loaded with potassium, an essential mineral your body needs to regulate blood pressure.I add figs to my oatmeal for a natural sweetener, and they go great with yogurt. Plus, figs are also high in calcium.

If you want a boost during exercise, drink beet juice. In an article from Dr. Oz’s website, people who drank the red juice daily for six days needed less oxygen during exercise-exercise actually felt better. Beets are loaded with nitrates, which dilate blood vessels, increase blood flow, and reduce the amount of O2 muscles need to do work. Beets also contain quercetin and resveratrol, two powerful antioxidants.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.