Nowadays, the health benefits of exercise seem to be advertised everywhere. While it is true that exercise has many benefits, they rarely go into explaining how any of it actually helps.
Research studies on the benefits of exercise to your health are quite clear. It does, in fact, improve several factors of life, from cognitive health to cancer outcomes. It also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The reasons why these happen, however, are not as well understood.
Many studies have already investigated how exercise can affect your muscle, bones, and heart. A team from the Harvard Medical School in Boston wanted to understand how exercise could change factors in your blood. Often overlooked, blood is critical in the transportation of various factors throughout the body. Therefore, any significant changes in the blood could influence every part of the body.
They began by collecting a group of young volunteers and separated them into clinically recognized moderate-intensity and high-intensity exercise groups. They planned on examining over one thousand three hundred proteins in the blood, and how they change before and after exercise for each group. Interestingly, there was a notable difference between the blood protein profiles seen in the moderate-intensity group versus the high-intensity group.
For the moderate-intensity group, the most notable changes concerned proteins related to bone growth and energy retrieval from fats. There was also an increase in proteins involved in recruiting immune cells. The high-intensity group showed a notable increase in proteins related to neurological health. The protein BDNF, thought to be associated with the improved mood and memory that comes with regular exercise, was of particular interest.
Not all exercise is good, however. Some studies have linked high-intensity exercise to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In this study, proteins known to increase the risk of coronary artery disease were elevated in the high-intensity group. The moderate-intensity group did not show the same levels of these.
This study supports the growing number of findings that prove how exercise can improve one’s overall health. The findings from the high-intensity group were interesting, as they showed both an increase in proteins related to neurological health and increased cardiovascular risk. In contrast, regular moderate exercise is known to reduce cardiovascular risk. This likely indicates that a more balanced exercise plan should be implemented, rather than a regular high-intensity plan.
The group concludes, “These data support the concept that exercise may confer its beneficial and adverse effects by influencing plasma proteins and signaling through a non-cell autonomous mechanism.”