New paper illustrates benefits of exercise as ‘mitrochondrial medicine’ with age, disease

senior exercise ball
A senior man doing seated ab twists while holding a ball

Everyone knows that the mitochondrion is the “powerhouse of the cell,” a moniker used to signify the energy-providing function of these organelles, says David Hood, professor in York University’s Faculty of Health. However, more and more, scientists have been turning their focus on mitochondria for their prominent role in regulating not only cellular energy but also overall health, as well as the progression of diseases such as cancer, obesity, metabolic diseases, and even contribute to aging.

Jonathan Memme
Jonathan Memme

In a recently published a paper in Frontiers in Physiology, Hood and PhD student Jonathan Memme summarize the importance of skeletal muscle mitochondria in the promotion of whole-body health, and describe the contribution of mitochondrial quality control machinery in maintaining a high-functioning organelle network.

According to Hood, over the last decade or so, research in the area of mitochondrial function and their contribution to health has outpaced that of other cellular organelles, indicating their importance in uncovering the keys to health and vitality.

“These scientific pursuits show that mitochondrial function is regulated through a coordinated effort of multiple processes that increase organelle content, while also reducing any mitochondrial deficiencies,” said Hood. “As such, the paper describes the efforts of our lab (David Hood’s Laboratory at York University) and others in continually unravelling the key regulators involved in this sophisticated coordination.”

To summarize, the paper illustrates the breadth and benefits of exercise to serve as “mitochondrial medicine” with age and disease.

The paper also highlights the ways in which dysregulation of mitochondrial quality control contributes to the progression of various diseases such as cancer and mitochondrial disorders, as well as with aging.

“We discuss the effectiveness of regular exercise as our best therapeutic intervention to reverse many of the mitochondrial derangements that develop with age, and in diseases, leading to an improved quality of life,” said Hood.

While much more work is required to completely understand the molecular regulation of mitochondria, this review provides an up-to-date summary of skeletal muscle mitochondrial quality control in the context of health and disease, and describes the merits of exercise as “mitochondrial medicine for muscle.”

“Exercise remains our single most effective intervention strategy in promoting and preserving health throughout life into old age, as well as in the context of various diseases such as cancer,” said Hood.