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Exercise Helps Stem Cells to Become Bone Cells, Not Fat, Improving Overall Health

Researchers from McMaster University, Canada, have discovered that exercising prompts influential stem cells to become bone, and not fat cells. This improves overall health as the body’s capacity to produce blood increases. The research appears in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.

Mesenchymal stem cells present in the body can become either bone or fat cells. The research showed that exercise can increase the production of the former. To study the role of aerobic exercise in this process, the researchers used treadmill-condition mice and compared them to control group of sedentary mice. In the first group, mesenchymal stem cells became bone more often than fat, while in the control group the reverse trend was observed.

In exercising mice which ran about an hour three times a week, the blood production increased, while in sedentary mice blood production in the bone marrow cavities was impaired by higher fat content.

The researchers concluded that cell composition—bone vs. fat—of the bone marrow cavity influences the productivity of blood stem cells. Bone cells help blood stem cells to produce blood, while the fat cells in the bone marrow cavity inhibit this function, which can lead to conditions such as anemia.

The god news is that even the modest exercise shifts balance towards bone cells, which results in significant increase in blood cells produced and entering circulation. The latter boosts immune system, makes oxygen uptake more efficient, and increases the body’s ability to heal wounds. The study results add to the long list of benefits resulting from exercise, showing that work-out influences the stem cell differentiation path.