Unlocking Mental and Physical Vitality

Lucy Farmbrough
April 16, 2024
5 min read
Lucy Farmbrough
Founder, Keel Mental Fitness
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Optimal mitochondrial health stands as a linchpin, holding the key to elevated energy levels, fortified resilience, bolstered disease resistance, extended longevity, and enhanced mental well-being.

These microscopic powerhouses, known as mitochondria, inhabit the cells of all living organisms, including humans.

Functioning as the cellular "powerhouses," mitochondria orchestrate the production of energy, govern metabolism, and orchestrate various vital cellular processes. Their significance stretches beyond the physical realm, profoundly influencing both our mental and physical health.

The vitality of our mitochondria hinges upon two pivotal factors:

1. TOTAL BODY STRESS LOAD - this includes everything from psychological and emotional stress, to toxins and pollutants in the environment, to poor diet, sleep deprivation and poor gut health.

2. THE BODY'S RESILIENT SYSTEMS - the body’s capacity to handle stressors.

Resistance to stress parallels the health of your mitochondria.

Mitochondrial robustness and the capacity to withstand stress are intrinsically linked. So much so that the condition of your mitochondria are predictors of:  

  • Your resilience against diseases
  • Your potential for a longer life
  • Your adaptability and endurance
  • Your vitality and energy levels

In terms of our PHYSICAL HEALTH mitochondria play critical roles in:

Energy Production: Mitochondria generate ATP and this energy is essential for every cell in the body to carry out its functions, from basic cellular maintenance to muscle contraction and organ function.

Metabolism Regulation: Mitochondria are involved in breaking down nutrients and converting them into energy, playing a vital role in maintaining a healthy weight and balanced metabolism.

Muscle Function: Muscle cells have a high number of mitochondria due to their energy-demanding nature. Efficient mitochondrial function is crucial for muscle contraction, endurance, and overall physical performance.

Cellular Repair and Maintenance: Mitochondria are also involved in cell signaling, helping to regulate processes like cell growth, differentiation, and apoptosis (programmed cell death). They contribute to the removal of damaged cellular components and play a role in maintaining the health of cells.

And in terms of our MENTAL HEALTH mitochondria play critical roles in:

Neurotransmitter Synthesis: Mitochondria are present in high concentrations within neurons, the cells of the nervous system. They play a role in producing neurotransmitters, which are crucial for communication between neurons and the overall functioning of the brain.

Brain Energy Demand: The brain is a highly energy-intensive organ, and mitochondrial dysfunction can have significant implications for cognitive function. Proper mitochondrial function is essential for maintaining mental clarity, focus, and cognitive abilities.

Neuroprotection: Mitochondria are involved in protecting neurons from oxidative stress and the damaging effects of free radicals. Mitochondrial dysfunction has been implicated in neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Neuroplasticity: Mitochondria play a role in neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections. This process is fundamental to learning, memory, and adapting to new experiences.

There is a host of proven lifestyle factors that can help improve mitochondrial health and function:

Regular Exercise

Cold Exposure

Intermittent Fasting and Caloric Restriction  

Balanced Diet

Healthy Fats and Nutrients

Stress Management

Adequate Sleep

Avoid Toxins


Regular Physical Activity

Dietary Supplements

Hormesis refers to intermittent bursts of certain stressors (exercise, cold exposure, intermittent fasting for example) that trigger a cascade of cellular processes that enhance overall health, slow aging, increase energy levels, and make you more resilient to future stress (physical and mental).

Mitochondrial dysfunction has been linked to a range of health issues, including metabolic disorders, neurodegenerative diseases, and even the aging process itself.

‘The mechanisms that underlie these processes are highly complex, in part because of their dynamic integration with neuroendocrine, inflammatory, and epigenetic systems—all of which are influenced to varying degrees by genetic, environmental, and developmental factors'. Daniels et al, 2020

Despite the complexity and limitations of current research into the intricate connections between mitochondrial health and overall well-being, it is becoming increasingly clear that supporting these organelles is fundamental to maintaining good physical and mental health throughout life.


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T. Daniels, E Olsen, A Tyrka, 2020.

Stress and Psychiatric Disorders: The Role of Mitochondria

Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, Vol. 16:165-186 (Volume publication date May 2020) https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-082719-104030