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Exercising Early in Life can Reduce Risk of Obesity and Cancer

Exercising Early in Life can Reduce Risk of Obesity and Cancer

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  • Bone metabolism strongly influences energy metabolism in the body and metabolism
  • Achieving optimal bone mass early in life can protect adults from bone-related problems
  • The memory of exercising early in life is retained in the bone marrow, which continues to change the way body metabolizes.

Bone retains a "memory" of exercise even after the exercise has been ceased for a long time. The retained bone memory continues to change the way the body metabolizes a high-fat diet, reveals a new study.

The study was conducted by a research team from the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland. The findings of the study were published in Frontiers in Physiology.


Link Between Bone Health and Metabolism

The bone health and metabolism of rats have been compared by the research team across different diet and exercise conditions, and also by focusing on messenger molecules. These messenger molecules signal the activity of genes in the bone marrow.

In this study, the rats were given a high-fat diet and a wheel for extra physical activity in their cage or a high-fat diet but no wheel or a regular diet and no wheel. The early extra exercise caused inflammation-linked genes to diminish in rats that were given a high-fat diet and an exercise wheel.

The activity of genes and other genes that cause inflammation increases when high-fat diets are given early in life.

The body's natural and self-protective way of response to acute infection or injury is through inflammation. But, the low-grade inflammation associated with high-fat diets can harm cells and tissues. This could increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

The way the rats' bone metabolized energy from food was altered with exercise. A change in the energy pathways that disrupt the way the body responds to a high-calorie diet has also been altered.

Dr Justin O'Sullivan, a molecular geneticist at the Institute said that the most remarkable aspect was to see that these changes lasted even longer even after the rats have stopped doing the extra exercise into their mid-life.

Effects of Overweight and Obesity on Bone Health

Dr O'Sullivan said: "The bone marrow carried a 'memory' of the effects of exercise. This is the first demonstration of a long-lasting effect of exercise past puberty. The rats still got fat, but that early extra exercise basically set them up so that even though they put on the weight they didn't have the same profile of negative effects that are common with a high-fat diet."

This study could help the scientists understand as to why some people with obesity do not develop diabetes, even though obesity and diabetes have often been associated with one another. The health benefits of exercise for children have been strongly emphasizes in this study, says Dr O'Sullivan.

A PhD student, Dharani Sontam, Professor Mark Vickers, and Professor Elwyn Firth were Dr O'Sullivan's co-investigators and they were all from the Liggins Institute.

Professor Vickers, an obesity specialist said that it is essential to understand the effects of overweight and obesity on bone health, as the rates of these conditions are rising in children. Obesity is governed by a number of genes. The utility of small animal models in teasing out gene-environment interactions in health and disease have been highlighted in this study.

The periods of childhood and adolescence are the periods for rapid bone growth, explains Professor Firth, who studies bone development.

He also said that an individual is less likely to suffer from broken bones or other bone-related problems as an adult, when optimal bone mass can be achieved early in life.

For growing bones, load-bearing from exercise and higher body weight appears to be good. However, this and other evidence show that the development of bones may be delayed, if the extra weight comes from higher body fat mass, explained Prof. Firth.

Professor Firth says, "Bone metabolism strongly influences energy metabolism in the body and metabolism as what you do with energy from diet is the central crux of why some children and adults become obese."

The research team is hoping to repeat the experiment to see if the changes persist even into the old age. Alongside with varying physical activity as to when it actually starts, how much exercise do the rats do and exercising for how long can alter other genes, affecting other aspects of fat metabolism.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is any physical activity, which enhances the overall fitness of the body. There has to be a good balance between a healthy diet and exercise for maintaining fitness and a life free of diseases.

Regular exercise helps increase muscle strength. A healthy body houses a sound mind, which in turn, gives one an optimistic approach to life.

Moderate but regular aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, gardening and dancing can help obese individuals lose weight, provided that it does not exceed their cardiovascular capacity as well as muscle strengthening, bone strengthening and stretching.

Regular exercise reduces the demand for medication by 20% in diabetics and checking the blood glucose levels before and after exercise can be a motivator to continue the exercise regimen.


  1. Dharani M. Sontam, et al. A Memory of Early Life Physical Activity Is Retained in Bone Marrow of Male Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet. Frontiers in Physiology.(2017). DOI:10.3389/fphys.2017.00476

Source: Medindia

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