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[18/5 NOTE: I don’t really understand this study. See the comments below — and help out if you can!]
Researchers from the University of Rome just published a study in the journal BMC Physiology in which they analyzed blood samples from 10 recreational runners before and after completing a marathon (press release here). The chief finding:
Apoptosis, the natural ‘programmed’ death of cells, is arrested in the aftermath of strenuous exercise. Researchers… studied peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), isolated from whole blood samples taken from people after finishing a marathon, finding that the balance between expression of pro- and anti-apoptotic genes is shifted after the race.
The idea that exercise helps your cells live longer has been in the news recently (see, for example, Gretchen Reynolds’ piece on telomere length in the New York Times a few months ago). This appears to be another piece of the puzzle — though a marathon is a pretty intense bout of exercise, so you have to wonder whether you’d get similar benefits from a shorter workout.