A study by the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) has found that short bursts of exercise induce changes in the body’s levels of metabolites that correlate to, and may help gauge, an individual’s cardiometabolic, cardiovascular, and long-term health.

The research team described how approximately 12 minutes of acute cardiopulmonary exercise affected more than 80% of circulating metabolites, including pathways linked to a wide range of favorable health outcomes, thus identifying potential mechanisms that could contribute to a better understanding of the cardiometabolic benefits of exercise.

“Much is known about the effects of exercise on cardiac, vascular and inflammatory systems of the body, but our study provides a comprehensive look at the metabolic impact of exercise by linking specific metabolic pathways to exercise response variables and long-term health outcomes,” said senior study author and investigator Gregory Lewis, MD, section head of Heart Failure at MGH, in a press release. “What was striking to us was the effects a brief bout of exercise can have on the circulating levels of metabolites that govern such key bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity.”

The study drew data from the Framingham Heart Study to measure the levels of 588 circulating metabolites before and immediately after 12 minutes of vigorous exercise in 411 middle-aged men and women. The researchers detected favorable shifts in a number of metabolites for which resting levels were previously shown to be associated with cardiometabolic disease.

Further, the study found that metabolic responses may be modulated by factors other than exercise, including a person’s sex and body mass index, with obesity possibly conferring partial resistance to the benefits of exercise, according to the study authors.

“Intriguingly, our study found that different metabolites tracked with different physiologic responses to exercise, and might therefore provide unique signatures in the bloodstream that reveal if a person is physically fit, much the way current blood tests determine how well the kidney and liver are functioning,” said co-first author Matthew Nayor, MD, MPH, with the Heart Failure and Transplantation Section in the Division of Cardiology at MGH, in a press release. “Lower levels of DMGV, for example, could signify higher levels of fitness.”

The Framingham Heart Study, which now embraces 3 generations of participants, allowed MGH researchers to apply the same signatures used in the current study population to stored blood from earlier generations of participants. Additionally, the researchers were able to predict the future state of an individual’s health and how long they are likely to live, according to the study authors.

Bursts of exercise can lead to significant improvements in indicators of metabolic health. Massachusetts General Hospital. https://www.massgeneral.org/news/press-release/Bursts-of-exercise-can-lead-to-significant-improvements-in-indicators-of-metabolic-health. Published November 16, 2020. Accessed November 17, 2020.