Latest News & Research: 13 February 2018

This week: Muscle memory and epigenetics; Arm exercises boost leg function; Aerobic exercise versus Alzheimer’s + Same mechanism causes body and mind fitnes

Same mechanism causes body and mind fitness

The same mechanisms responsible for the beneficial effects that exercise has on the brain also help to boost fat metabolism and strengthen the immune system, according to a new Swedish study.

Previous research found that exercise caused muscles to convert the stress marker kynurenine into kynurenic acid, which activates the cell receptor GPR35. This caused the conversion of white fat into energy-burning brown fat, and the enhancement of immune cells anti-inflammatory properties.

Jorge Ruas, principal investigator at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, said ‘We've linked the two parts of the expression 'sound mind, sound body'. Our research adds to the understanding of why exercise training benefits the body and in the long run can lead to the development of new treatments for obesity or diabetes.’

Arm exercises boost leg function

Sometimes the effects of exercise aren’t the most obvious – and in some instances can seem like the furthest thing from obvious. This research from Canada probably falls into the latter category.

Working with a team of older adults who had previously experienced a stroke, researchers from the University of Victoria found that a five-week program of arm exercises significantly increased walking ability. In fact, they recorded improvements in the Up and Go test of up to 28%

Explaining the reason for this, the researchers reported that ‘Arm cycling training activated interlimb networks that contribute to the coordination of rhythmic walking’.

Basically, the activity caused nerves in the arms to improve function in the spinal cord, which in turn enhanced leg function.

‘Although improvements in walking may not be as robust as those from other training modalities, they do highlight the integral role that training the arms can have on rehabilitation of human locomotion.’

Aerobic exercise versus Alzheimer’s

A recent analysis of exercise in relation to Alzheimer’s disease has drawn a strong link between aerobic exercise and improved cognitive function.

In a review of 19 studies involving a total of 1,145 seniors who were at risk of Alzheimer's, US researchers found aerobic exercise to be more effective than resistance training in this respect. They also found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that any sort of physical activity was linked to better cognitive function in those at risk of Alzheimer’s than no significant physical activity at all.

The team led by Gregory Panza, an exercise physiologist in the Department of Cardiology at Hartford Hospital, concluded ‘Our findings suggest that exercise training may delay the decline in cognitive function that occurs in individuals who are at risk of or have AD [Alzheimer's disease], with aerobic exercise possibly having the most favourable effect.’

Muscle memory and epigenetics

Growth spurts in skeletal muscle may be remembered by the body, helping those muscles achieve further gains later in life, according to new UK research.

Studying DNA, a multi-university study led by a team from Keele University explored how muscle grows after exercise, then returns to normal and grows again post-exercise in later life.
In other words, working out when you’re younger may help your body to emulate at least some of those muscle and strength gains in your older age.

Senior study author Dr Adam Sharples said ‘If an athlete's muscle grows, and then they get injured and lose some muscle, it may help their later recovery if we know the genes responsible for muscle 'memory'. Further research will be important to understand how different exercise programs can help activate these muscle memory genes.’

However, the findings may also have implications for athlete’s that have used performance enhancing drugs that have artificially promoted muscle growth, because even if they cease using the drugs, they may still have an unfair advantage later in their career due to the muscle memory’s ability to facilitate strength gains.