Exercise improves the heart’s ability to regenerate new muscle cells under normal conditions and also after a heart attack. This according to a recent study published in Nature Communications that identifies a link between exercise and the heart’s health.
Exercise: Promotes Heart Health
According to previous research, our hearts have very little capacity to regenerate themselves. Indeed, heart muscle cells in a young adult heart only renew 1 percent every year and this decreases with age. Therefore, any interventions that increases new heart cell formation could have the potential to prevent heart failure in the future.
The research reported in Nature Communications was conducted on groups of mice. The objective was to find out if exercise is a natural way to improve the regenerative capacity of heart muscle cells.
Exercise: Study Results
Researchers used two groups of healthy mice to test the effects of exercise on the heart. One group of mice had voluntary access to a treadmill, and the other group did not and remained sedentary.
The mice with the treadmill ran around 5 kilometers each day. The scientists were able to measure heart regeneration in the mice by tracking the newly made DNA as the cells divided. By doing this, they could see where new cells were being produced in the heart muscles.
Mice that used the treadmill produced more than four and half times the amount of new heart muscle cells than those without access to a treadmill.
They decided to take the test one step further by using mice that had experienced an actual heart attack.
Following a heart attack, the mice with access to a treadmill continued to run 5 kilometers per day voluntarily, and they showed an increase in heart tissue where new muscle cells were formed.
Exercise: A Healthy Heart Is A Healthy Start
These results show that maintaining a healthy heart requires a way to reverse the loss of heart muscle cells due to injury or aging. Such loss can be dramatically reversed with exercise.
This study indicates that study shows you might be able to make your heart younger by exercising more every day.
The next step is to locate the biological mechanisms that connect exercise to the production of new heart muscle cells. Thus far, they have found a particular biological pathway where exercise switches on heart muscle cell regeneration.
“Now,” explains Dr. Rosenzweig, “we need to find the signals that are sufficient to turn this pathway on.”
Dr. Lee concludes, “If we can turn on these pathways at just the right time, in the right people, then we can improve recovery after a heart attack.”