When you exercise, you train your muscles and your cardiovascular system, and even improve your immune system. Did you know that when you regularly exercise you are also training your fat cells?
A recent study from the University of Copenhagen shows that properly trained fat cells actually help long term against diseases and aging.
How fat cells help you
We, unfortunately, tend to think of fat as a bad thing, an unsightly result of too much food or too little exercise. Fat cells, though, have an important function like anything else in the human body.
“Overall health is closely linked with how well our fat tissue functions… fat is an organ that interacts with other organs and can optimize metabolic function. Among other things, fat tissue releases substances that affect muscle and brain metabolism when we feel hungry and much more. So, it’s important that fat tissue works the way it should,” says Anders Gudiksen, an assistant professor in the University of Copenhagen’s biology department.
Fat cells have organelles inside them called mitochondria. These are basically the little generators responsible for converting food into calories to feed cells. Like any other part of the body, these mitochondria’s ability to produce energy decreases as we age, and aging mitochondria also produce more of a harmful waste called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS).
ROS that isn’t regularly disposed of damages cells and is thought to contribute to diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
How exercise strengthens your fat
The Copenhagen team looked at the mitochondria of older and younger men, some of whom regularly exercised and some who didn’t. The team found that the older men who exercised regularly throughout their lives enjoyed a long-term benefit of mitochondria that aged well and maintained the ability to regulate and dispose of ROS.
This benefit isn’t exclusively for, say, triathletes and Olympians. If you maintain a healthy routine of regular movement and exercise you can help your fat cells and mitochondria to stay in tip-top shape. According to Gudiksen, the important thing is not to do nothing.