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Study Provides Map of Metabolic Response to Short Bursts of Intense Exercise

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) tracked changes in levels of metabolites in the blood of 411 middle-aged men and women (average age 53) before and after 12 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise. The finding were first reported September 15, 2020, in the journal Circulation.

The details were discussed November 16, 2020, in Science Daily.

Significantly, this short burst of acute exercise was found to impact more than 80% of circulating metabolites (502 of 588), including pathways linked to a wide range of favorable health outcomes.

"Much is known about the effects of exercise on cardiac, vascular and inflammatory systems of the body, but our study provides a comprehensive look at the metabolic impact of exercise by linking specific metabolic pathways to exercise response variables and long-term health outcomes," says investigator Gregory Lewis, MD, section head of Heart Failure at MGH and senior author of the study. "What was striking to us was the effects a brief bout of exercise can have on the circulating levels of metabolites that govern such key bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity."

For example, glutamate, a key metabolite linked to heart disease, diabetes and decreased longevity, fell by 29%. And DMGV, a metabolite associated with increased risk of diabetes and liver disease, dropped by 18%.

"We're starting to better understand the molecular underpinnings of how exercise affects the body and use that knowledge to understand the metabolic architecture around exercise response patterns," says co-first author Ravi Shah, MD, with the Heart Failure and Transplantation Section in the Division of Cardiology at MGH. "This approach has the potential to target people who have high blood pressure or many other metabolic risk factors in response to exercise, and set them on a healthier trajectory early in their lives."

You’ll find more details in Science Daily: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201116125606.htm

We were only able to access the Abstract of the study: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.050281

The Conclusions there are as follows: In a large sample of community-dwelling individuals, acute exercise elicits widespread changes in the circulating metabolome. Metabolic changes identify pathways central to cardiometabolic health, cardiovascular disease, and long-term outcome. These findings provide a detailed map of the metabolic response to acute exercise in humans and identify potential mechanisms responsible for the beneficial cardiometabolic effects of exercise for future study.

My Take

We were unable to determine the precise nature of the exercise; all we know is that it was 12 minutes of vigorous cardiovascular exercise. The subjects were drawn from the famous Framingham Heart Study (begun in 1948 and now embracing three generations), suggesting that more than one form of cardiovascular exercise may have been involved.

Cardiovascular exercise challenges your heart, lungs and circulatory system. That usually means moving the large muscles in your legs, arms and hips over a sustained period of time. When these major muscles are involved in exercise, there is an increased rate of respiration to produce energy. In turn, the need for more oxygen leads to increased breathing and heart rate. Fast walking, stair climbing, running, cycling, rowing, swimming, anything that works your muscles and makes you breathe harder is included.

The best kind is usually what you enjoy and do well. Exercises you’ll want to keep doing. A variety of exercise is best, so you can move on to something else when you top-out or tire of what you’re doing.

Carol and I have done many different forms of cardiovascular exercise: jogging and biking before we were married, and running, stationary biking with push-pull arm action, and the Concept 2 Rower and Ski Erg after we were married. More recently we’ve spend many hours exploring the foothills above our neighborhood.

Climbing the winding trail up the big mountain you can see from our front yard—it takes about 30 minutes and gets gradually steeper—allowed me to stay on the progressive (incline and then speed) Cooper Clinic treadmill longer than 99% of men my age (early 50s).

More recently, Carol and I have been going up and down a smaller mountain; one side is about 45% and other considerably steeper. We go up one side, over the top, and down the other, over and over. It's intervals on the mountain.

Our best is 10 reps up and down both sides. When we burn out on that, we move on to other trails and hills. The options are practically endless.

This enlightening MGH study adds to our motivation to keep challenging ourselves with various forms of cardiovascular exercise and, of course, strength training.

April 1, 2021

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