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Health & Fitness

Your Brain And Your Metabolism

Here’s some comfort in case you skip your daily workout every once in a while.

A new mouse-model study from UT Southwestern Medical Center shows that neurons that influence metabolism are active for up to two days after a single workout. The research offers new insight into the brain’s potential role in fitness and – in the longer term – may provide a target for developing therapies that improve metabolism.

“It doesn’t take much exercise to alter the activity of these neurons,” said Dr. Kevin Williams, a neuroscientist at UT Southwestern. “Based on our results, we would predict that getting out and exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days, in particular with respect to glucose metabolism.”

metabolism

The study, published in the December edition of Molecular Metabolism, measured the effects of short- and long-term exercise on two types of neurons that comprise the melanocortin brain circuit, which is shared by both humans and mice. One of the neuron types (POMC) is associated with reduced appetite, lower blood glucose levels, and higher energy burning when activated; the other type (NPY/AgRP) increases appetite and diminishes metabolism when activated.

“Getting our an exercising even once in a semi-intense manner can reap benefits that can last for days.”

The study found that a single bout of exercise can boost the activity of POMC neurons and inhibit the counterpart NPY/AgRP neuron for up to two days. Those changes last longer with more training.

The findings expand the scientific understanding of the melanocortin circuit, which previous studies showed could be altered through feeding or fasting but had not yet been linked to exercise.

The results also provide another avenue to research potential treatments to improve glucose metabolism in patients with conditions such as diabetes. More than 30 million Americans have diabetes, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the population. Another 84 million have prediabetes, which can lead to diabetes within five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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