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Exercise Cleans Out the Body's Garbage

Your cells rely on exercise to help remove damaged parts and debris.

Ripped abs and a four-minute mile aren’t the only benefits of exercise. A new study shows how exercise keeps your body’s cells from looking like an episode of Hoarders.

Like any machine, your body suffers from normal wear and tear throughout the day. In the cells that make up your organs and tissues, this damage shows up as mangled proteins, bits of cell membranes and worn-out components. If cells can’t clear out this debris, they stop working right and may even die.

Cells have a system in place—called autophagy—to gather the garbage, and either recycle the pieces or burn them as fuel for the cell. This system kicks up a notch whenever the body is under stress, such as during starvation or exercise.

Researchers used mice to see how exercise affected the ability of cells to clean house. They genetically engineered mice to keep them from removing the debris during exercise. These “hoarder” mice grew tired whenever they exercised, and had difficulty using sugar to fuel their muscles.

The researchers also found that when these mice were given diabetes—by stuffing them full of fatty kibble—exercise had no effect on the disease. Unaltered mice, however, could reverse their diabetes by running, even if they kept eating poorly.

All of this highlights the enormous benefits of exercise, both in maintaining a healthy body and reversing diseases related to poor diet. Next time you want to skip the gym, think about the garbage that’s collected in your cells since breakfast.

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