By: Victoria Northington
Christopher Newport University Senior | Biology Major
When we think about fitness, we often attribute our strength and endurance to personal success and hard work. However, scientists’ recently have discovered that the energy reserve that we use to simply lift a dumbbell can be traced back to our DNA. More specifically, we inherit these amazing organelles directly from our mothers!
What are Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are “cellular organelles that function as power plants within a cell” (Khambatta, 2014). Their job is to breakdown and oxidize fatty acids, carbohydrates, and amino acids from food to form energy.
Now remember, your mitochondrial powers come directly from our mothers! Researchers found that the paternal mitochondria employ a self-destruct mechanism during egg fertilization. Why does this happen you may ask? Scientist still are unsure. It is hypothesized that it is a safety mechanism that ensures there is not too much information entering the DNA sequence. When the self-destruct mechanism was interrupted during testing, both paternal and maternal mitochondria embedded in the DNA. It resulted in low rates of embryo survival (Yin, 2016). Also, it was concluded that people with mitochondrial defects often inherited these mutations from their fathers.
Mitochondria and Exercise
Mitochondria are directly stimulated by exercise due to the increase in ability for muscle to burn fatty acids and carbohydrates. The more fatty acids and carbs that are burned, the more mitochondria that are formed to speed up the energy conversion. By increasing mitochondrial production, endurance is improved and workouts can be longer because of the influx of available energy. It is important to note that the relationship between mitochondria and exercise is not linear. It is a cycle. The mitochondria provide energy, which it used to exercise. Exercise then helps to build muscle mass and rebuild key organelles in cells that begin to degrade as we get older. For example, it has been found that exercise can ward off:
Nowadays, it seems that we all want to turn to medications and short-cut remedies to avoid the illnesses listed above. According to researchers, all we need is a little bit of exercise!
A study conducted by Sreekumaran Nair, a medical doctor and diabetes researcher at the Mayo Clinic, showed that high-intensity interval training stops aging at the cellular level. In this study, he enrolled 36 men and women from two different age groups, young (18-30) and old (65-80). The volunteers participated in various physical activities. These activities consisted of interval biking, strength training, and a combination of the two. After training, the volunteers' thigh muscles were biopsied and the molecular makeup of their muscle cells were compared to samples biopsied from sedentary volunteers. Results showed that weight training was effective at building muscle mass, while high-intensity interval training was beneficial for cellular regeneration. The volunteers in the younger age range in the aerobic training group had a 49% increase in mitochondrial capacity. The older volunteers surprisingly showed even more mitochondrial activity with a whopping 69% increase!
Nair determined that interval exercises “cause cells to make more proteins for their energy-producing mitochondria and their protein-building ribosomes,” (Press, 2017) which effectively stops cellular aging and reduces the risk of developing diabetes. Activities such as high intensity interval training and resistance training or even something simple as riding a bike or walking can add YEARS to your life without having to take medications.
In a way, we DO have our mothers to thank. They directly provided us with the resources to live a long and healthy lifestyle. However, you must know that mitochondria have a “use it or lose it” complex. This means that any sedentary behavior can lead to increased cell death and rapid onset of all disorders listed above. Our mothers provided the framework. It is up to us to build from it. So, make sure you get your workout in today!
THANKS FOR THE MITO MOM!
Cell Press. "How exercise -- interval training in particular -- helps your mitochondria stave off old age." ScienceDaily.
ScienceDaily, 7 March 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/03/170307155214.htm>.
Khambatta, C. (2014, July 1). High Intensity Exercise Makes Muscle Mitochondria Happy. Retrieved June 30, 2017, from http://fitstar.com/high-intensity-exercise/
Matthew M. Robinson, Surendra Dasari, Adam R. Konopka, Matthew L. Johnson, S. Manjunatha, Raul Ruiz Esponda, Rickey E. Carter, Ian R. Lanza, K. Sreekumaran Nair. Enhanced Protein Translation Underlies Improved Metabolic and Physical Adaptations to Different Exercise Training Modes in Young and Old Humans. Cell Metabolism, 2017; 25 (3): 581 DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2017.02.009
Yin, S. (2016, June 23). Why Do We Inherit Mitochondrial DNA Only From Our Mothers? Retrieved June 30, 2017, from https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/24/science/mitochondrial-dna-mothers.html
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