Stolen: Exercise, muscle metabolism and good health |

Stolen: Exercise, muscle metabolism and good health

by Dr. Joanne Stolen

The new CMC Auditorium in Breckenridge recently hosted an audience of about 85 people, who asked a lot of exercise and diet-related questions of Juleen Zierath, PhD, stimulated by her talk on “Exercise and Muscle Metabolism.” Dr. Zierath is currently a professor at the prestigious Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden and her research focuses on diabetes and the benefits of exercise. She is an American with degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Ball State, and in her college years she was involved in a variety of sports and studied exercise physiology. That prompted her interest in muscle metabolism and exercise, as well as the benefits of exercise for diabetics. She was sponsored by Keystone Symposia and Cafe Scientifique, both wonderful assets to our community. She is currently the newly appointed chair of Keystone Symposia’s Board.

What limits athletic performance? Some of it is mental, but genetic factors also come into play as well as acquired skills and muscle tone. Nutrition and the right balance of rest are also important in athletic training. When you exercise strenuously, you actually tear muscle fiber, and if you do not rest, chronic damage may occur. So it is important to taper off before a big competition. Microscopic examination of the muscles of an elite level, long-distance runner shows a high percentage of slow twitch (Type 1) muscle vs. fast twitch muscles. The predominance of the type of muscle is largely genetic or inherited. Exercise and weight training actually increases glucose metabolism in muscles, like charging a battery! The muscle after vigorous exercise actually expands its capacity to store sugar, and this provides the energy for movement. There are two important energy reservoirs for muscle: the liver and fat cells.

There are two types of diabetes, and one responds especially well to exercise. Diabetes can lead to heart problems, blindness and loss of circulation in the extremities. Type 1 manifests itself when a person is a juvenile, and these individuals are insulin-dependent. This is an autoimmune disease. The cells of the pancreas that produce insulin are destroyed by the immune system. Insulin is a hormone necessary for the proper metabolism of sugar in the body. Type 2 can be inherited but can also be induced by the environmental factors such as diet, activity level, toxins and stress. This usually develops at an older age. If an individual adheres to a proper diet and exercise, he or she may not need supplemental insulin. Exercise actually increases the sensitivity of muscles to insulin, and the body does not need to produce as much.

So what are the guidelines to healthy living? Try 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days to prevent weight gain, 60-90 minutes to sustain weight loss, and a minimum of 30 minutes to reduce chronic disease. Eat 5-13 servings or fruit and vegetables daily; limit total fat intake to 20-35 percent of calories with less than 10 percent saturated fats. Fish, nuts and vegetable oils are a good source. Limit intake of red meat, white bread, and pasta and use less than 1 tsp of sodium (salt) daily. Someone asked about the association between restricting caloric intake and longevity. Dr Zierath said this is certainly true in studies on rodents.

We Summit County residents are on the whole healthier than the rest of the nation. On the average we use our muscles more. We have many world class athletes living here and most people enjoy the many sports associated with our beautiful mountains, streams and reservoir.

Breckenridge resident Dr. Joanne Stolen is a former professor of microbiology from Rutgers now teaching classes at CMC. Her scientific interests are in emerging infectious diseases and environmental pollution.

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