A recent study using diathermy has shown that long-term heat therapy may help improve mitochondrial function in muscle. The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.1
What are Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are discrete organelles that exist within cells, and are responsible for creating ATP, or cellular energy. In the simplest terms, mitochondria are the “energy centers” of the body. In recent years, more and more attention has been given to these vital components of the body, and the relationship between chronic disease and mitochondrial dysfunction is becoming clearer.
Mitochondrial function & exercise
One thing that has been shown to improve mitochondrial function is exercise. However, for many who have chronic illness, exercise may not be possible, or the duration which a person may be able to exercise may not be enough to affect mitochondrial function. Previous research suggests that 2 hours of daily exercise may be needed to reap the benefits of exercise on mitochondrial function. However, research on rodents has suggested that heat exposure may also induce production of more mitochondria.
About the study
20 adult volunteers were recruited who had not exercised in the previous 3 months. Short wave diathermy was applied for 2 hours – short wave diathermy is a heat therapy that uses electrical pulses to create heat in the muscle. Diathermy was applied to the thigh muscles of participants daily for 6-days. The duration of the therapy was based on previous studies that have shown the minimal amount of exercise to see measurable changes in muscle – which is roughly 2 hours daily. The diathermy increased the temperature of the heated leg an average of 7 degrees F. The non-treated leg of each participant served as a control. Mitochondrial numbers were measured on the first day of therapy and 24 hours after the final session.
Mitochondrial function increased by 28 percent
Mitochondrial function was seen to increase by 28 percent on average in the thigh muscles that underwent treatment. The concentration of mitochondrial proteins also elevated in the heated legs as well, which suggests both increased function and number of mitochondria.
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- Hafen PS, Preece CN, Sorensen JR, Hancock CR, Hyldahl RD. Repeated exposure to heat stress induces mitochondrial adaptation in human skeletal muscle. J Appl Physiol. 2018
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Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia through naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.