Controlling for the many variables made measuring the impact of exercise on metabolism a moving target. But researchers found a way to standardize a lot and they were surprised by what they found. The results of a new study show the benefits of exercise on metabolism are more profound than researchers previously understood.
Metabolism is the process of the body converting food into energy and eliminating waste. During metabolism, substances called metabolites are produced and Dr. John F. O’Sullivan from the University of Sydney in Australia says, "Metabolites are the intermediates of the metabolic machinery in the body and can signal how metabolic health is changing in response to exercise."
The findings published in the journal Cardiovascular Research from the European Society of Cardiology were from a study that carefully controlled the differences in diet, stress, sleep patterns and work environment among the participants. Researchers got around this traditional obstacle by working with a group of soldiers who lived under the same guidelines.
"Our motivation for this study was to overcome this limitation by studying exercise under controlled conditions, thereby revealing the true extent of effects on the body," said Dr. O'Sullivan. "Therefore, we used a cohort of newly-enlisted healthy male soldiers of similar age and baseline fitness who lived in the same domicile, had the same sleep patterns, ate the same food, and underwent the same exercise regimen."
Scientists measured nearly 200 metabolites in the blood of 52 soldiers before and after an 80-day aerobic and strength exercise program. They then compared them and related the changes to the changes in fitness.
"These results show that metabolic adaptation to exercise is far more profound than previously reported," said Dr. O'Sullivan. "The results increase our knowledge of the widespread benefits of exercise on metabolism and reveal for the first time the true magnitude of these effects. This reinforces the mandate for exercise as a critical part of programs to prevent cardiovascular disease."
Dr. O’Sullivan’s team found trained muscle burned much more fuel like fat. They also were able to detail the scale and scope of changes in the gut, in blood clotting, and in the breakdown products of protein, as well as the opening of blood vessels and increased blood flow.
"The power of exercise to boost metabolism is on top of its positive effects on blood pressure, heart rate, fitness, body fat, and body weight,” Dr. O’Sullivan said. “Our findings cement the central role of exercise in preventing cardiovascular disease."