Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mitochondria are my new friends

My youngest son and I watched Nova ScienceNow last night. I'm a life-long science geek and I'm so happy that my kids are too. Discovery Channel is on far more than Cartoon Network. But I digress...

Last night's episode had a segment about a scientist trying to find a way to put the benefits of exercise into a pill. The benefit he was wanting to pack into a capsuel is the ability to burn calories like a marathon runner, because calories burned on behalf of endurance exercise comes from fat.

I won't go into all the science talk (you can watch the show here), but basically, he got mice to lose weight without having to exercise, and he did it by chemically getting their bodies to increase the amount of mitochondria in their bodies. Some people seem to be able to do that more easily than others (hate them!), and the more mitochondria there are in a body, the more calories are burned.

So, I was wondering how to increase the amount of mitochondria in my body without having to take pills, since those won't be available for quite some time. Mitochondria are cells in the body that do a lot of stuff, but what's important to me at the moment is how they help convert energy. And that process is what burns calories from fat.

While the doc wants to chemically increase the amount of mitochondria, the best way to do it naturally is to exercise...of course. And some of the best exercise for accomplishing this are activities like swimming laps, rowing, using an elliptical crosstrainer. The point is to engage the whole body in the activity. And you have to do it for atleast 15 minutes at 80% of the maximum heart rate, three times a week.

So when I discovered this, I started thinking that I could exercise, get more mitochondria, and then coast. Not true. When not needed, they do shrink and go away, so consistent exercise is necessary to maintain them.

No easy answers. I guess I won't wait for the pill.

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