A new study reveals how exercise helps slow aging.

Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center say that when you exercise there’s an essential “mediator” that involves a cycle of fragmentation and repair of the mitochondria, the specialized structures, or organelles, inside every cell responsible for producing energy.

Mitochondria are compartments of cells considered “powerhouses” in breaking down food for fuel.

Mitochondrial function is critical to health, and disruption of mitochondrial dynamics — the cycle of repairing dysfunctional mitochondria and restoring the connectivity among the energy-producing organelles — has been linked to the development and progression of chronic, age-related diseases, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

“We determined that a single exercise session induces a cycle of fatigue and physical fitness recovery that is paralleled by a cycle of the mitochondrial network rebuilding,” said first author Juliane Cruz Campos, a postdoctoral fellow at Joslin Diabetes Center. “Aging dampened the extent to which this occurred and induced a parallel decline in physical fitness. That suggested that mitochondrial dynamics might be important for maintaining physical fitness and possibly for physical fitness to be enhanced by a bout of exercise.”

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