12 minutes of exercise is enough to improve metabolic health

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Short periods of high-intensity exercise are already enough to improve some indicators of metabolic health, a new scientific study finds.

In a study published in the journal Circulation, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH, USA) reported that approximately 12 minutes of cardiorespiratory exercise had a significant impact on metabolism. More precisely, this short session of physical activity had a positive impact on more than 80% of the circulating metabolites, in particular the metabolites involved in insulin resistance (glutamate for example) and in lipolysis, that is, the combustion of fats.

Clearly, you do not need to exercise for hours to see the metabolic health benefits and therefore reduce, even slightly, your risk of being overweight, diabetes, or prediabetes. Gregory Lewis, director of heart failure at MGH and co-author of the study, commented:

"What surprised us were the effects that brief exercise can have on circulating levels of metabolites that govern key bodily functions such as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular responsiveness, inflammation, and longevity."

The study here was based on data from the Framingham Heart Study and consisted of measuring the blood levels of 588 metabolites before and immediately after approximately 12 minutes of high intensity sport in 411 participants. The sample was 63% women and people between 45 and 61 years old. Then the research team detected changes in 502 of the 588 metabolites, and for which the levels measured at rest were associated with cardiometabolic pathologies (diabetes, cardiac pathology, etc.).

The researchers cite in particular glutamate, a metabolite linked to diabetes, cardiovascular disease and reduced longevity, a metabolite whose concentration in the blood was reduced by 29% after exercise. Another example is that of "dimethyl guanidino valeric acid" or DMGV, a metabolite linked to an increased risk of diabetes and liver disease, whose concentration was reduced by 18%. The study also showed that other key factors, such as gender and body mass index (BMI), could somehow reduce the benefits of exercise on metabolism.

In addition to inviting exercise, even if it is of short duration, this study reveals that the blood concentration of various metabolisms can be a good indicator of the physical condition of an individual, just as blood tests can inform us about the liver or healthy kidneys, researchers say. "For example, low levels of DMGV can mean that the individual is very physically active," said Matthew Nayor, a co-author of the study.

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