Using treadmill-conditioned mice, researchers have shown that aerobic exercise triggers mesenchymal stem cells to become bone more often than fat. Mesenchymal stem cells are most likely to become fat or bone, depending on which path they follow.
The new research suggests that working out triggers the influential stem cells to become bone instead of fat, thus improving overall health by boosting the body's capacity to make blood.
"The interesting thing was that a modest exercise program was able to significantly increase blood cells in the marrow and in circulation," said Parise. "What we're suggesting is that exercise is a potent stimulus -- enough of a stimulus to actually trigger a switch in these mesenchymal stem cells."
In ideal conditions, blood stem cells create healthy blood that boosts the immune system, permits the efficient uptake of oxygen, and improves the ability to clot wounds.
But when fat cells start to fill the bone marrow cavity -- a common symptom of sedentary behavior -- blood stem cells become less productive, and conditions such as anemia can result.
The findings add to the growing list of established benefits of exercise, added Parise, and suggest that novel non-medicinal treatments for blood-related disorders may exist in the future.
"Some of the impact of exercise is comparable to what we see with pharmaceutical intervention. Exercise has the ability to impact stem cell biology. It has the ability to influence how they differentiate."
Adapted from the McMaster University announcement.