Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Exercise metabolism in 2016

Health benefits of exercise — more than meets the eye!

Although regular physical activity can prevent or reduce the risk of many age-related diseases, the molecular mechanisms underpinning the protective effects of exercise are largely unknown. In 2016, a series of studies demonstrated that crosstalk between tissues during exercise can protect against metabolic disease, cancer, retinal degeneration and memory loss. These studies provide a molecular basis for the concept of 'exercise as medicine'.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: The multiple benefits of exercise.


  1. 1

    Pedersen, B. K. & Febbraio, M. A. Muscles, exercise and obesity: skeletal muscle as a secretory organ. Nat. Rev. Endocrinol. 8, 457–465 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Booth, F. W., Roberts, C. K. & Laye, M. J. Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases. Compr. Physiol. 2, 1143–1211 (2012).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Whitham, M. & Febbraio, M. A. The ever-expanding myokinome: discovery challenges and therapeutic implications. Nat. Rev. Drug Discov. 15, 719–729 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Moon, H. Y. et al. Running-induced systemic cathepsin B secretion is associated with memory function. Cell Metab. 24, 332–340 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Mera, P. et al. Osteocalcin signaling in myofibers is necessary and sufficient for optimum adaptation to exercise. Cell Metab. 23, 1078–1092 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Febbraio, M. A., Hiscock, N., Sacchetti, M., Fischer, C. P. & Pedersen, B. K. Interleukin-6 is a novel factor mediating glucose homeostasis during skeletal muscle contraction. Diabetes 53, 1643–1648 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    van Hall, G. et al. Interleukin-6 stimulates lipolysis and fat oxidation in humans. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metab. 88, 3005–3010 (2003).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Thompson, H. J., Jiang, W. & Zhu, Z. Candidate mechanisms accounting for effects of physical activity on breast carcinogenesis. IUBMB Life 61, 895–901 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Pedersen, L. et al. Voluntary running suppresses tumor growth through epinephrine- and IL-6-dependent NK cell mobilization and redistribution. Cell Metab. 23, 554–562 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Chrysostomou, V. et al. Exercise reverses age-related vulnerability of the retina to injury by preventing complement-mediated synapse elimination via a BDNF-dependent pathway. Aging Cell 15, 1082–1091 (2016).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The author is a senior principal research fellow of The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (supported by grant APP11021168).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mark A. Febbraio.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Febbraio, M. Health benefits of exercise — more than meets the eye!. Nat Rev Endocrinol 13, 72–74 (2017).

Download citation

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing