The exercise hormone!?! That sounds made-up! And … it’s not.
It was 3 years ago, this month, that the “exercise hormone” was introduced to the world by the researchers from Harvard who discovered it. The researchers named it “Irisin”. They have found that Irisin is released from muscle cells in response to moderate endurance aerobic activity and it appears to be “the” messenger molecule that communicates with various tissues in the body, leading to the many health benefits of exercise and physical activity.
Here are some of the things that have already been proven about Irisin:
● It acts as a hormone that can reprogram the body’s fat cells to burn energy instead of storing it.
● It turns on genes that convert “white fat” into good “brown fat”; brown fat continues to burn off more calories even after the actual aerobic activity.
● It increases the metabolic rate causing more calories to be burned (for sure through the “brown fat” connection and possibly through other ways as well).
● It improves cognitive function.
● It protects the brain against degeneration.
● It triggers the development of new brain cells.
● It slows cellular aging by protecting the cell’s DNA and prolonging the ability to make new “daughter cells” (this is how the cells in our bodies are replaced; when a cell can no longer create daughter cells, the aged cell dies off and there is no replacement).
This all sounds great, right? So, here is the challenge … the only way to get your levels of Irisin up … and enjoy all the benefits that come with that … is to exercise!!! Oh NO!!! It doesn’t need to be a crazy amount of exercise but it does need to be the type of exercise that makes you sweat, increases your heart rate, and, candidly, feels like a workout. There are so many activities that fall into this category! It really becomes a personal choice for you.
Are you confused about “aerobic” versus “anaerobic” exercise? Here is a great explanation done from the perspective of a marathon runner. You’ll get the idea. One of the simplest ways of “feeling” the difference between the aerobic and anaerobic during an exercise period is when you feel the “burn” in particular muscles. The burn equals an anaerobic phase to your activity. It is often very brief in the flow of an overall aerobic activity. The “burn” is great for building and toning muscles. It is not great for making irisin.
I live in the Pacific Northwest and it is a great place to hike! Walking up a trail is definitely aerobic and there are short stretches of uphill that turn anaerobic … where I feel the burn in my legs. There are tons of other examples. If you are into yoga, you feel the “burn” a lot! Plan your exercise to include at good portion of time in the “aerobic” zone. It doesn’t need to be super long, even 20 or 30 minutes will be a good start. You’ll figure it out – moderate endurance aerobic activity is your target. So, for all the reasons you should exercise, you can add irisin to the list!