Unless you’re from outer space, most people realize the multitude of benefits from physical activity. Discoveries from a new study, published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, surprised even the lead researcher. Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a professor of pediatrics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, was startled to discover that exercise kept a strain of mice from becoming gray prematurely. But shiny fur was the least of its benefits. Exercise reduced or eliminated almost every detrimental effect of aging in mice that had been genetically programmed to grow old at an accelerated pace.

In the experiment, Dr. Tarnopolsky et al. used lab rodents that carry a genetic mutation affecting how well their bodies repair malfunctioning mitochondria, which are tiny organelles within cells. Mitochondria combine oxygen and nutrients to make fuel for the cells, akin to power generators. Mitochondria can multiply on their own, but in the process, they sometimes accumulate small genetic mutations. Normally, they contain specialized repair systems which correct the damage. However, as we age, the number of mutations outstrips the system’s ability to make repairs, and mitochondria stat dying.

Many scientists consider the loss of healthy mitochondria to be an important factor in the aging process. Muscles shrink, hair falls out, brain volume drops, and soon we are, in appearance as well as beneath the surface, old.

These mice were divided into two groups, a sedentary group and an exercising group. The results were amazing. At 8 months (the human equivalent of 60 years), the sedentary mice were bald, frail, and dying, while the running rodents remained youthful. They also had pelts of dark fur, had maintained almost all of their muscle mass and brain volume, and their hearts and gonads were normal.

There is a synopsis of the study in an excellent article written by Tara Parker-Pope in the March 2, 2011 edition of the New York Times.

Do you need more evidence? Get moving today.

What Is Fibromyalgia, other than being a frustration to patients and clinicians. And, what causes it?┬áIf there’s one thing that is known about fibromyalgia is that there is not much known about it. There no known lab test, imaging, pathology, or other objective findings to validate this entity, but sufferers defend their disease vigorously. A significant number of sufferers improve on antidepressants. There are other potentially effective therapies in addition to the 3 approved medications (duloxetine, milnacipran, and pregabalin) including talk therapy, exercise, improved sleep hygiene, nutrition, and avoidance of stressors. However, these don’t work for all persons. No one is sure what they are treating. Is it a symptom complex with a number of possible causes or a distinct condition associated with widespread reduction in a patient’s pain threshold, and thus a heightened sensitivity to pain. Or is it a psychosomatic condition? If there is a reader out there who can shed some light on some therapies that may be helpful, please feel free to comment, as I have a friend who is suffering. Thanks.

I am leaving for Las Vegas shortly. My son, Alex, has a national Tae Kwon Do tournament there this weekend. My dog, Jake, has his first dogsitter.

Stay well, John R Blilie, M.S.