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Exercise in early life has long-lasting benefits

Exercise in early life has long-lasting benefits

Regular exercise early in life has long-lasting health benefits, new research claims. 

Academics from the University of Auckland in New Zealand have discovered that bone retains a "memory" of exercise's effects long after the effort has ceased, and this bone memory continues to change the way the body metabolises a high-fat diet.

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

Rats were either given a high-fat diet and a wheel for extra exercise in their cage, a high-fat diet but no wheel, or a regular diet and no wheel. In the rats given a high-fat diet and an exercise wheel, the early extra physical activity caused inflammation-linked genes to be turned down.

"What was remarkable was that these changes lasted long after the rats stopped doing that extra exercise - into their mid-life," says Dr. Justin O'Sullivan. "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 weight they didn't have the same profile of negative effects that is common with a high fat diet."

High-fat diets early in life are known to increase the activity of other genes that cause inflammation. In addition, exercise also altered the way the rats' bones metabolised energy from food, changing energy pathways that disrupt the body's response to a high-calorie diet.

Researchers hope the findings may help scientists understand why, even though obesity and diabetes are often linked, some people with obesity do not develop diabetes. They are now also looking to repeat the experiment to see if the changes persist into old age.

Full study results have been published in Frontiers in Physiology.

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