I first learned about mitochondria reading Lewis Thomas. In â€œLives of a Cellâ€ he postulates that these fascinating organelles (structures within our cells that have specific functions) may be individual entities living within their hosts – us. They do, after all, have their own unique DNA – a fact which sent my mind on some deep philosophical musings.Â
This symbiotic relationship is vital to our survival as mitochondria are directly responsible for generating ATP – the chemical â€œfuelâ€ our cells use to function. Scientists have speculated that it could be mitochondrial dysfunction that causes us to lose muscle mass and suffer from functional impairment as we age.Â Understandably, I was intrigued when I discovered that researchers in Canada had looked to these little powerhouses in direct relation to the reversal of aging.
The team took genetic samples from 25 healthy men and women over age 65 both at the beginning of the study and again six months later. They then compared these to samples taken from a group whose average age was 22. At the start of the study there was a definite difference between the two samples which showed a clear decline in mitochondrial function with aging.Â
During the six month period the older participants took part in hour long strength training sessions twice a week. The researchers expected to see an improvement in over-all fitness, but what they actually found was totally unexpected. By the end of the study the participantsâ€™ genetic fingerprints had reversed to closely match those of the younger group – their mitochondria had been revitalized!Â
As researcher Simon Melov said:
â€œThe fact that their ‘genetic fingerprints’ so dramatically reversed course gives credence to the value of exercise, not only as a means of improving health, but of reversing the aging process itself…â€
In essence, by repairing the mitochondria, exercise can keep us young.Â
Iâ€™ve often told my mother that it is never too late to begin exercising. Fortunately she listened and began taking almost daily walks. I also have a chi machine for her to use. On days that are too cold or wet, it provides the perfect form of passive aerobic exercise. So what are you waiting for? Start revitalizing your mitochondria today!