Harvard study finds big benefits to 12-minute bursts of exercise

Shane McGlaun - Nov 17, 2020, 5:57am CST
Harvard study finds big benefits to 12-minute bursts of exercise

A new study from the Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has been published, and it found short bursts of physical exercise can have a significant impact on health. The research team describes in their paper that about 12 minutes of acute cardiopulmonary exercise affected more than 80 percent of circulating metabolites. Short bursts of exercise also impacted pathways linked to a wide range of favorable health outcomes identifying potential mechanisms that might contribute to a better understanding of cardiometabolic benefits of exercise.

Gregory Lewis, section head of Heart Failure at MGH and the senior author of the study, said that it was striking to the researchers that the effects of a brief bout of exercise have on circulating levels of metabolites that govern vital body functions. Functions linked to those metabolites include insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation, and longevity. The study drew data from the Framingham Heart Study to measure levels of 588 circulating metabolites before and immediately after 12 minutes of vigorous exercise in 411 middle-aged men and women.

Researchers found a favorable shift in the number of circulating metabolites for which resting levels were previously shown to be associated with cardiometabolic disease. The metabolite glutamate, a key metabolite linked to heart disease, diabetes, and decreased longevity, fell by 29 percent with these short bouts of exercise. Another metabolite impacted by short-duration exercise was DMGV, associated with the increased risk of diabetes and liver disease. DMGV was reduced by 18 percent.

MGH researchers also found that metabolic response could be modulated by factors other than exercise, including a person’s sex and body mass index. There is a potential that obesity confers partial resistance to the benefits of exercise.

An intriguing possibility found in the study is that different metabolites tracked with distinct physiological responses to exercise and could provide unique signatures in the bloodstream to reveal if a person is physically fit. This finding could open the door to a blood test to determine how fit a person is, similar to how we can check kidney and liver function through the blood.


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