A 10-minute workout on the treadmill can change over 9,000 molecules in the body, finds study

A 10-minute workout on the treadmill can change over 9,000 molecules in the body, finds study
(Getty Images)

We know that exercise can work wonders for our bodies. Now, a new study documents its effects, down to our blood. The study found that a 10-minute workout can induce changes in 9,815 molecules. These findings could pave the way for designing blood tests that measure fitness levels. These molecules are involved in various body functions, from metabolism to digestive and immune function. Scientists have long believed that exercise brings changes at molecular levels, shielding us from heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and aging.

In this study, scientists from Stanford University studied 36 people between the age of 40 and 75. The participants had varied fitness levels: some were aerobically strong while others were not. Some had diabetes while others had normal sugar levels. Before working out on a treadmill, these volunteers provided blood samples for the study.

The team drew blood immediately after completing the task, and again after a gap of 15, 30 and 60 minutes. In these samples, the team looked for changes in more than 17,000 molecules. Of them, 9,815 either rose or dropped following the physical activity. "I had thought, it's only about nine minutes of exercise, how much is going to change? A lot, as it turns out," Michael Snyder, the chair of the genetics department at Stanford University and senior author of the study told The New York Times.

Snyder compared these changes to an orchestration. For some people, the molecules rose after a workout and then dropped. For others, these changes — an increase or decrease — stayed for long. They added that the alterations varied depending on an individual's fitness levels. "It was like a symphony. First, you have the brass section coming in, then the strings, then all the sections joining in," he explained.

The team is hoping to study the benefits of resistance exercise and endurance training (Getty Images)

The study showed that participants struggling with diabetes also displayed differences. Some of these patients often do not respond to insulin, a hormone responsible for keeping blood sugar levels low. After the workout, the team recorded small increases in molecules associated with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. They also showed a higher increase in molecules involved in responding to an attack, suggesting that they were somewhat resistant to the general, beneficial effects of exercise.

The study has a few limitations, including the fact that the researchers studied only a few participants. Besides, it recorded changes only until an hour after the physical activity. So it does not provide answers to long-term changes to the body. And, it did not involve participants under the age of 40.

In the future, the team hopes to work on experiments that address the gaps left by the current study. They aim to evaluate changes brought about by longer workouts. Comparing resistance exercise and endurance training is also on the cards. In other words, researchers will try to understand which participants are likely to benefit from the two types of workouts. It will also help in designing a fitness blood test, according to the New York Times. The study was published in Cell.

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