Long-term heat therapy found to increase mitochondrial function in the muscles


The loss of mitochondrial function can lead to chronic diseases. According to a press release from the American Physiological Society, it’s possible to restore and boost the function of your mitochondria using heat therapy.

The mitochondria is called the “powerhouse” of the cell. This is because it enables cellular respiration, a process that is essential to the cells’ function and survival. Without the mitochondria, the cells can malfunction and expire prematurely.

It’s no wonder that mitochondrial dysfunction can result in a lot of health problems. People born with mitochondrial diseases, for instance, suffer from kidney, heart, liver, and lung conditions; thyroid problems; hearing and vision problems; diabetes; and an increased risk of infection, among others.

Some studies have concluded that exercise can help boost the generation of new mitochondria, as well as the function of existing ones. However, people suffering from chronic diseases may not be able to exercise for two hours daily – the length of time which, according to previous studies, people need to reap this benefit.

Rodent studies have suggested that exposure to heat can boost mitochondrial function. A study by Brigham Young University confirmed that this could work on humans, too. The research involved 20 individuals who had not exercised for three months before the study. Every day for six days, the participants were given two hours of shortwave diathermy, a therapy that uses heat generated by electrical impulses, to the thigh muscles of one leg. The therapy heated the treated thigh muscles by approximately seven degrees Fahrenheit. This was meant to imitate the increase in temperature that exercise causes on the muscles.

The participants’ leg muscles’ mitochondrial content was checked after the first day and 24 hours after the last day of treatment. It was found that mitochondrial function had increased by an average of 28 percent following the treatment. Moreover, the heated legs showed improvements in the levels of certain mitochondrial proteins.

The researchers concluded that heat treatments might benefit people who cannot engage in long-term exercise by improving the number and function of their mitochondria. (Related: Aluminum induces neurotoxicity by altering mitochondria of brain cells.)

Other benefits of exercise

Engaging in regular exercise not only keeps your mitochondria functional, but it also gives you the following health benefits:

  • Weight loss – Losing weight isn’t important just for aesthetics, it also protects you from certain diseases. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, among other serious health problems.
  • Mood improvement – Exercising releases endorphins, hormones that induce positive feelings and help reduce your perception of pain. It also makes your brain more sensitive to serotonin and norepinephrine, two hormones that relieve anxiety and feelings of depression.
  • Bone and muscle improvement – Exercise strengthens your muscles and bones, allowing you to move better. Strong muscles and bones also make you less prone to injuries.
  • Increased energy – If you are prone to feelings of fatigue, you could be experiencing chronic fatigue syndrome. Regular exercise has been proven to help increase your energy levels and address the symptoms of this condition.
  • Better skin – Moderate exercise increases your body’s antioxidant levels, boosting your protection from oxidative stress that causes premature aging. However, take care not to overdo it, as too much physical activity can cause oxidative stress.
  • Improved brain health – There are many ways exercise helps boost brain health. It speeds up blood flow, which means nutrients are delivered faster to your brain. Additionally, physical activity aids in the production of brain-healthy hormones. Exercise also increases the size of the hippocampus, the part of the brain necessary for memory and learning, and helps inhibit the changes that contribute to your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn about the many benefits of exercise at Health.news.

Sources include:

The-APS.org

My.ClevelandClinic.org

Healthline.com

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