Exercise: Your Body’s Housecleaner

Kris Hanke

Spring cleaning is almost upon us, but when it comes to your body, you don’t have to wait until March to get going. A recent study has shown that when you exercise, the body does some “housecleaning” at the cellular level.

Tara Parker-Pope from USA Today does a great job of explaining the research in her latest article:

It’s long been known that cells accumulate flotsam from the wear and tear of everyday living. Broken or misshapen proteins, shreds of cellular membranes, invasive viruses or bacteria, and worn-out, broken-down cellular components, like aged mitochondria, the tiny organelles within cells that produce energy, form a kind of trash heap inside the cell.

In most instances, cells diligently sweep away this debris. They even recycle it for fuel. Through a process with the expressive name of autophagy, or “self-eating,” cells create specialized membranes that engulf junk in the cell’s cytoplasm and carry it to a part of the cell known as the lysosome, where the trash is broken apart and then burned by the cell for energy.

Without this efficient system, cells could become choked with trash and malfunction or die. In recent years, some scientists have begun to suspect that faulty autophagy mechanisms contribute to the development of a range of diseases, including diabetes, muscular dystrophy, Alzheimer’s and cancer. The slowing of autophagy as we reach middle age is also believed to play a role in aging.

The bottom line is, the more you move, the more autophagy (housecleaning) that takes place. Just like the other systems of the body, this action is stimulus-response based. In the same way that you step on a tack (stimulus) and pull your foot up quickly (response), if you move (stimulus), the body cleans itself and you’re left healthier and with more energy (response). If you don’t, the “trash” collects, you aren’t as healthy and have a lower energy level.

Now, I believe the key to all of this is the position of the body. If a joint is misaligned, the body won’t be moving properly and, therefore, won’t be “cleaning” efficiently. Even though you’re moving, there’s still a chance that the cells are collecting trash. You have to stay focused on the position of the body in order to improve the condition of the body.

QUESTION: What’s your favorite activity to assist with your “housecleaning”?