Skip to main content

Researchers found that exercise changed the metabolism, immune system, and all 19 organs, at a molecular level, in rats. Harvard Public Health spoke with one of the study’s authors, Sue Bodine, a professor in the Aging and Metabolism Research Program at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Why this study topic?

We have plenty of data to show that exercise is beneficial for health, but we really don’t understand how. What are the pathways that are activated or modified to improve your health, prevent disease, or even treat disease? So the goal of this project was to try to understand what processes are being affected by exercise and how different organ systems adapt.

What did the study find?

One of the biggest things we found is that all organ systems respond to exercise. In particular, we found major effects on metabolic pathways and improvements in metabolism in multiple organ systems. We also saw a lot of effects of exercise on the immune system—including differences in the ways that males and females responded that I think require further study.

What would you like to see happen based on the results of the study?

Hopefully it will lead to, eventually, a better understanding of exercise and a better understanding of how to prescribe exercise. We know being active is good for you, but can you do a more personalized prescription of exercise? That’s the long-term goal.

—Leah Rosenbaum

(Study in Nature, May 2024)

Have an idea for a Snapshot? Send it to

Filed under