How Exercise Prevents Disease

Just like white adipose tissue is considered an endocrine organ, so too is muscle.

White adipose tissue secretes cytokines known as adipokines which wreak havoc on the body, and cause disease and inflammation.

Muscle secrets cytokines known as myokines which do the opposite. Myokines are anti-inflammatory, are good for the body, and can prevent disease.

Myokines communicate with your liver, pancrease, adipose tissue, cardiovascular system and your brain.

There are hundreds of myokines. For this article I will focus on two important ones: interleukin-6 and BDNF.

You may have heard me speak about interleukin-6 in my videos on obesity. Interleukin-6 is an interesting protein that can be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. Whether it’s inflammatory or anti-inflammatory depends on the mechanism that signals its secretion. When it’s secreted because of adipose tissue it’s inflammatory. When it’s secreted as a myokine it’s anti-inflammatory. It depends on the signaling pathways and the other chemicals involved in its secretion.

Interleukin-6 as a myokine increases gluconeogenesis, increases glucose availability, and increases fat oxidation so fat can be used for fuel during exercise.

BDNF is an amazing product of muscle activity. It promotes repair and regeneration in the muscle, and in the brain it stimulates neurogenesis in the hippocampus. Further, it can prevent against alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s patients have a deficit of BDNF in their brains. BDNF is thought to help prevent accumulation of amyloid plaques in the brain, which accumulate in alzheimer’s patients. Low BDNF levels can increase the chance of schizophrenia, depression and dementia.

Inactivity decreases myokine response and causes myokine resistance, indicating that lack of exercise can lead to disease. Myokines protect against metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer, dementia and osteoporosis.

The big take-aways here are that exercise itself is anti-inflammatory, can help prevent disease and boost brain health.

Muscles and their myokines:

Muscles, exercise and obesity:

Interleukin 6:


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