Exercise triggers influential stem cells to become bone instead of fat, thereby improving overall health by boosting the body's capacity to make blood, McMaster researchers have found.
The body's mesenchymal stem cells are most likely to become fat or bone, depending on which path they follow.
Using treadmill-conditioned mice, a team led by the Department of Kinesiology's Gianni Parise has shown that aerobic exercise triggers those cells to become bone more often than fat.
In sedentary mice, the same stem cells were more likely to become fat, impairing blood production in the marrow cavities of bones.
"The interesting thing was that a modest exercise program was able to significantly increase blood cells in the marrow and in circulation," stated Parise.
"What we're suggesting is that exercise is a potent stimulus-enough of a stimulus to actually trigger a switch in these mesenchymal stem cells," he continued.
The findings add to the growing list of established benefits of exercise, Parise said, and suggest that novel non-medicinal treatments for blood-related disorders may be in the future.
The results were published by the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.