A recently released study on pubmed, conducted in Taiwan, shows that lifting weights has the potential to increase lifespan. The mechanism through which this happens is by elimination of senescent cells. This is very exciting new research.
What are Senescent Cells?
Over the past few years, the study of aging has truly exploded and one of the key findings is that cellular senescence is a hallmark of aging. As it turns out, senescent cells are one of various processes that directly cause aging. Human cells are constantly being born, grow old, die and get replaced. Science has known this to be true for a long time. However, what we now know to be true is that some cells enter into a state known as “senescence.” Senescent cells no longer divide or support the tissues of which they are part; rather, they send out a variety of harmful chemical signals that cause inflammation and drive aging.
This pro-inflammatory collection of chemical signals blocks important cellular processes, prevents stem cells from repairing damaged tissue efficiently, and is responsible for causing age-related diseases. And to make matters worse, these cells can also encourage nearby healthy cells to become senescent, initiating a downward negative spiral of increasingly poor tissue repair.
The key to slowing down aging is for the body to clearing away unwanted senescent cells, as much as possible. This is the job of the immune system, and replacing the lost cells requires stem cells to repopulate tissues. When we age, the ability of the immune system to clear these cells starts to falter, and senescent cells begin to accumulate, thus increasing inflammation, and creating a downward spiral.
Sciences has a term called “Inflammaging” which refers to inflammation that is constant, low-grade chronic inflammation. This is the type of inflammation from which many age-related diseases spring from. Thus, inflammaging is a health risk factor as we age.
Until recently, it was thought there was not much that could be done to eliminate senescent cells. There are dietary strategies and some supplements that are being studied which have shown some merit in slowing down the process of senescense. But the real power would be in clearing away these toxic cells. Now it looks like there is some scientific evidence providing an answer.
The name of the study is: The Aged cells in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise, and the conclusion suggest that lifting weights may be the answer to a longer lifespan.
In this study, the researchers studied a group of young men under a weight training protocol with two different nutrition protocols. The only nutrition variable was low or high protein. The researchers examined the impact of lifting on senescent cells by taking frequent tissue biopsies. The study conclusion follows:
“Conclusion: Rapid senescent cell clearance of human skeletal muscle during resistance exercise seems to associate with enhanced in situ phagocytosis. High protein availability accelerates resolution of muscle inflammation and promotes muscle increment after training.”
For reference, “phagocytosis” is a known mechanism to selectively eliminate senescent cells in the human body. As it turns out, a single session of resistance exercise increases phagocytosis in skeletal muscle and eliminates a significant amount of senescent cells. Thus, this study strongly suggests that exercise is an effective anti-aging strategy, whether the participants consumed lower or higher amounts of protein. Interestingly though, those eating higher protein showed an acceleration of muscle inflammation resolution, which led to higher muscle protein synthesis, which is also exciting.