Short bouts of physical exercise can improve metabolic health indicators and contribute to positive health outcomes, according to research published in Circulation.

We know that exercise has positive effects on cardiac and vascular health, but what about metabolic function? Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital explored that question by studying metabolites—substances produced in the body during metabolism and governing bodily functions like insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity.

The research team measured the levels of 588 circulating metabolites in 411 middle-aged men and women before and immediately after 12 minutes of vigorous exercise. Results showed shifts in a number of metabolites linked to cardiometabolic disease.

For example, glutamate, a metabolite linked to heart disease, diabetes and decreased longevity, dropped by 29%. DMGV, a metabolite associated with increased risk of diabetes and liver disease, fell by 18%. By contrast, metabolites associated with lipolysis and adipose browning increased by 33% and 26%, respectively.

Not only did the research reveal the capacity for exercise to lower metabolites associated with health risks, but it also demonstrated how measuring metabolite levels in the bloodstream may be used to assess a person’s physical fitness.

Further, evaluating metabolic signatures of exercise response may help predict the future state of an individual’s health and how long the person is likely to live—a useful tool for developing interventions and strategies to improve health outcomes.

Read the full study in Circulation (2020; doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.050281).