Am I loath to admit it? No. I proudly admit that I joined the ranks of the many people who overate during the holidays. What I do loathe is dusting off that VHS tape to start doing aerobic exercises that promise to turn my various expanded body parts into steel. Though, I have always been told that it is important to at least try. But is it?

While we can easily observe what happens to the exterior of bodies hooked on exercise, what happens on the inside at the molecular level? A team of researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder have answered that question by measuring protein differences in a cohort of healthy people, both young and old, who either exercised regularly or lived sedentary lifestyles (Santos-Parker, Santos-Parker, McQueen, Martens, & Seals, 2018).

What did they find? When comparing the blood of active and sedentary people, the researchers found that exercise changed the levels of circulating proteins that were involved in stress response, inflammation, immune system and cell death (apoptosis). Some of these changes correlated with measurements typically used to gauge one’s healthspan (how long you stay in good health), such as blood pressure, insulin resistance, etc. The team also corroborated previous findings of exercise-induced alterations in proteins involved in neural development, blood vessel formation, glucose metabolism, muscle enlargement, etc.— processes known to mediate the physical benefits of regular exercise.

Even more interesting for those of us of a certain age, the researchers found that exercise could act as a potential fountain of youth for some processes, such as inflammation and cell stress response. Several proteins whose levels changed with age were partially returned to levels comparable with young people when regular exercise entered into the picture.

The researchers noted that although the work is very encouraging, the findings are still preliminary and require further validation. Nevertheless, the work paves the way for a potentially brighter future for anyone affected by aging – which is, well, everyone. Proteomics may have just provided us with proof that we can slow or reverse processes associated with age-related conditions (Haigis & Yankner, 2010; Sanada et al., 2018). I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel more inclined to start exercising. Where is that VHS tape? It’s time for me to work on building some steel.



Haigis, M. C., & Yankner, B. A. (2010). The aging stress response. Mol Cell, 40(2), 333-344. doi:10.1016/j.molcel.2010.10.002

Sanada, F., Taniyama, Y., Muratsu, J., Otsu, R., Shimizu, H., Rakugi, H., & Morishita, R. (2018). Source of Chronic Inflammation in Aging. Front Cardiovasc Med, 5, 12. doi:10.3389/fcvm.2018.00012

Santos-Parker, J. R., Santos-Parker, K. S., McQueen, M. B., Martens, C. R., & Seals, D. R. (2018). Habitual Aerobic Exercise and Circulating Proteomic Patterns in Healthy Adults: Relation to Indicators of Healthspan. J Appl Physiol (1985). doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00458.2018