Reality is under attack! Technology has advanced to such a point that it is providing “alternate reality” which is invading our very lives. Where once we had video games which simply glued our sight to a small screen image, now we have VR (virtual reality) games which invoke our full range of sight, sound, and even touch. We used to spend money using cash, then we moved to credit cards which shield us from the sense of how much we are really spending, and if that weren’t enough, now we have Bitcoin, where all trace of real money is replaced by computer code. The blockchain technology of Bitcoin goes further: it is replacing physical land, artwork, and other hard assets with digital assets which are only computer code — and real money is flowing into these unreal collectibles at a tremendous rate. CryptoKitties is a blockchain virtual world where players can buy digital cats, breed them in hopes of getting new, unique digital kitties, then selling them, perhaps even making a profit.
If these were not sufficient invasions into reality, technology has gone further. Using blockchain again, NFT’s (non-fungible tokens) are used in games such as Decentraland, where a player’s avatar can roam around an entire virtual world, walk into stores, buy items, have their Bitcoin or alternative digital coin charged, and then the items they bought actually get shipped or delivered to the player in the real world. You can even walk into a virtual food outlet and order fast food to come to your door so you can get right back to playing. These entire virtual worlds are called “metaverses”, or alternate, self-defined universes. FaceBook changed its name to “Meta” as it seeks to embrace the metaverse approach with their social media. Popular movies such as the Matrix series suggests our entire lives are essentially a computer simulation, and that we are projected into an alternate reality as we live our “lives”.
There is one remarkable advantage that reality has, no matter how much it comes under assault: it eventually asserts itself and wins the contest. We can submerse ourselves in alternate reality, have news media completely change our view of the world around us, confuse our senses with fake sights, sounds, and tactile sensations in a metaverse, and yet somehow reality takes over at some point. Our physical bodies ground us in the real world. Our bodies are tuned to the real environment, and if we tune out the body too much, it will atrophy. We can’t live on digital food, water, and oxygen, and even if we could, our bodies would still fall apart for lack of exercise.
Exercise: are you a good stress, or a bad stress?
Stress itself is pressure meant to invoke a change. Stress coming from worry, poor nutrition, or toxins tell our bodies that change is needed, and the cellular mechanics look for a solution — this can lead to disease. But some stress is appropriate and necessary for the body, and the change it promotes is positive.
You know that exercise is a form of stress: initially you take some temporary damage from the exertion. Your digestion slows or even shuts down to provide needed energy for the exercise. Your muscles generate lactic acid, resulting in low pH in the muscle tissue. Your heart has to work harder, and so do your lungs. Your bones are stressed, and both muscle and bone tear down just a little bit during the process. Significant exercise is unsustainable — you have to rest at some point. But during exercise some very important things happen which are vital to your health. And afterwards, your body rebuilds better than before. The stress of exercise is actually a good stress, so long as the exercise is within your physical limitations and you don’t do too much damage during the exercise, creating an injury.
What happens during exercise that makes it a good stress occurs mostly outside the muscles that are doing the actual work. Because of the heat produced with the higher metabolism, sweat glands pour water — and toxins — out of your body and onto the surface of your skin to evaporate and cool your body, because evaporation of water requires added energy, and sweat evaporation takes energy in the form of heat loss. The muscular contractions help pump blood through their veins as they rhythmically squeeze the veins — this aids the heart in circulating blood faster. Your brain makes more neurotransmitters which also aids its operation. Once readily available sugar is depleted in your body, hormones tell the liver to convert fat to energy. But there is one more good thing that happens — improved enzyme function.
Published in Science Advances, researchers at Monash University Biomedicine Discovery Institute discovered that an enzyme labeled NOX4 is increased in skeletal muscle tissue during exercise. This is important because NOX4 levels decrease with age, and they in turn cause levels of skeletal muscle reactive oxygen species (ROS) production to drop, which tends to promote insulin resistance. This means that older people are more prone to diabetes, and exercise promotes an enzyme which counters that. In effect, exercise is anti-aging because of the improved enzyme production.
That study highlighted just one enzyme. Research published in Diabetes, which is the journal from the American Diabetes Association, confirms this exercise benefit with another enzyme: AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK). The researchers at the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Nutrition, Exercise, and Sports showed that AMPK released during exercise increases insulin sensitivity for several hours afterwards — and this happens regardless of the insulin provided to the muscle or changes in the insulin receptors of the muscle. This verifies that the improvement in insulin handling came from the enzyme.
Enzyme activity is based on a number of factors: enzyme levels and concentration, substrate (what the enzyme acts upon) concentration, temperature, pH, and presence of enhancers or inhibitors. Exercises raises temperature and cellular metabolic activity, which tends to promote greater enzyme creation and greater enzyme reaction rates. You have many enzymes, and science can’t catalog and study all of them, so it concentrates on specific enzymes to correlate with exercise. Another specific enzyme, Phosphatidylinositol-glycan-specific phospholipase D, known by its encoding gene name of GPLD1, is valuable in brain function. GPLD1 is produced in the liver during exercise, and its effects last well after the exercise has ended. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience Nursing, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama found that GPLD1 reduces brain inflammation and oxidative stress, and exercise-caused higher levels of GPLD1 correlate with improved brain function. This is another example of how exercise helps the entire body, including the brain.
Get up and go
So, if you would like your real body in the real world to work better, slow your aging, and help stave off disease: take one last look at your beautiful digital art masterpiece, say bye to your digital Siberian short-hair cross-breed blue-green kitty, walk over to the exit of your metaverse, disconnect the VR headset, get up and give your body some good stress! Your avatar may get neglected, but your real body will appreciate it.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
It is very interesting to see how genes that produce enzymes and enzymes which speed up cellular reactions and cellular functions are controlled by thoughts, diet and (as we can see in these articles) lifestyle choices — one of the biggest ones being exercise.
Let’s start with the NOX4 enzyme: did you read the article correctly? It says NOX4 produces reactive oxidative species, which is inflammatory. Well that does not make any sense — I thought that would be a bad thing for my muscles, my insulin, and blood sugar! That’s what common sense tells you, but the body works with a unique wisdom and balances stressors to use them to its advantage. So what the research is saying is when you do those pull-ups and push-ups, when you do that cardio workout, when you lift those weights: you are in a sense causing an inflammatory enzyme, which is related to inflammation pathways, to increase — but here’s the key: the difference between aging and anti-aging is that with aging the inflammation is chronic, whereas with anti-aging the inflammation is a short term stressor and stimulates the body to become stronger . So if you run a marathon every day you would be aging, but by doing it for 20 minutes a day you are anti-aging. Are you starting to understand how it works? When you look at the study of stress it is divided into two categories: eustress and distress. Eustress is good stress that promotes long-term positive changes and is short-lived, whereas distress produces very negative long-term effects results because it is chronic or a long-term stressor.
Let’s look at the enzyme AMPK. This enzyme is released during exercise and this enzyme is also key in anti-aging. What do you think is another lifestyle activity that can in a positive way stress the body short term to produce this enzyme? Fasting. What is fasting? It is a period of not taking in food which is a stress to the body short term — that’s why it also increases AMPK and the anti-aging mechanism.
So remember what is real. Movement is real and movement using muscles causing short term stress to them always produces positive results by lowering insulin, blood sugar and increasing not only the quality of life but also the quantity.
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