The mighty mitochondria! You’ve heard us talk about them before. Mitochondria are the tiny power houses inside our cells that take glucose and fats from the blood and magically convert them into energy. The more mitochondria we have, the more fat we burn, and the more energy we have.
If you’d like more energy, more mitochondria will help you get it. How to get more mitochondria? According to a report on work being done at the Translational Research Institute for Metabolism and Diabetes (TRI) in Orlando, Florida, aerobic exercise stimulates your body to create more and better-functioning mitochondria.
Without enough exercise, muscle atrophy accompanies aging. Starting around the age of thirty, muscle fibers shrink, while fat stores accumulate. Even if we maintain the same weight, we lose muscle-to-fat ratio. We also lose mitochondria, and those we have become less effective.
This can lead to developing insulin resistance, making it even harder to manufacture energy, as well as easier to put weight on and harder to take it off. Insulin resistance is also the first step in metabolic dysfunctions that bring about premature aging and potentially diabetes.
But all of this is preventable and reversible!
In the report mentioned, MRI images of a cross-section of muscle in a 70-year-old triathelete look identical to a similar cross-section of muscle in a 40-year-old triathlete. However a cross-section of muscle from a sedentary 74-year-old was completely different, and pretty horrifying. (See the pictures in the article if you want some motivation to get into a regular exercise program!)
Fortunately, Bret Goodpaster, a researcher at TRI with twenty years of experience in reversing muscle atrophy, promises that “. . . anyone, no matter their age, can create more youthful muscle.” Research has shown that your body will start producing new mitochondria after as few as three to seven days of brisk walking for 45 minutes a day. In one study, sedentary men and women in their 60s who walked on a treadmill or rode an exercise bike 30-40 minutes four to six days a week increased their mitochondria by as much as 68% in 12 weeks. Aerobics also stimulate the mitochondria to function more efficiently and prompt the body to create more blood vessels to carry more energy-producing oxygen and nutrients to your muscles.
No wonder exercise makes people feel young and energetic again!
Aerobic exercise is any kind of movement that gets your heart rate (pulse) up into your “target range,” which is calculated with this formula: (220-your age) X 0.6-0.8. The goal is to stay within this range as you work out. Check with your doctor. You may want to start with 12 minutes a day (a total of 15 minutes since it takes about three minutes to reach your target range) and gradually work up to more.
Resistance exercise (strength training) isn’t as effective for building mitochondria, but you need two or more sessions a week to maintain lean muscle mass. We enjoy getting both aerobic and resistance exercise on our rebounders!