High levels of exercise linked to nine years of less aging at the cellular level

May 10, 2017, Brigham Young University
Human chromosomes (grey) capped by telomeres (white). Credit: PD-NASA; PD-USGOV-NASA

Despite their best efforts, no scientist has ever come close to stopping humans from aging. Even anti-aging creams can't stop Old Father Time.

But new research from Brigham Young University reveals you may be able to slow one type of aging—the kind that happens inside your cells. As long as you're willing to sweat.

"Just because you're 40, doesn't mean you're 40 years old biologically," Tucker said. "We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies."

The study, published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine, finds that people who have consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those who have sedentary lifestyles, as well as those who are moderately active.

Telomeres are the protein endcaps of our chromosomes. They're like our biological clock and they're extremely correlated with age; each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres.

Exercise science professor Larry Tucker found adults with high have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of nine years over those who are sedentary, and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active. To be highly active, women had to engage in 30 minutes of jogging per day (40 minutes for men), five days a week.

"If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won't cut it," Tucker said. "You have to work out regularly at high levels."

Tucker analyzed data from 5,823 adults who participated in the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one of the few indexes that includes length values for study subjects. The index also includes data for 62 activities participants might have engaged in over a 30-day window, which Tucker analyzed to calculate levels of physical activity.

His study found the shortest telomeres came from sedentary people—they had 140 base pairs of DNA less at the end of their telomeres than highly active folks. Surprisingly, he also found there was no significant difference in telomere length between those with low or moderate physical activity and the sedentary people.

Although the exact mechanism for how exercise preserves telomeres is unknown, Tucker said it may be tied to inflammation and . Previous studies have shown is closely related to those two factors and it is known that exercise can suppress inflammation and oxidative stress over time.

"We know that regular helps to reduce mortality and prolong life, and now we know part of that advantage may be due to the preservation of telomeres," Tucker said.

Explore further: Too much sitting, too little exercise may accelerate biological aging: study

More information: Larry A. Tucker, Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation, Preventive Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.027

Related Stories

Too much sitting, too little exercise may accelerate biological aging: study

January 18, 2017
Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells that are biologically older by eight years compared ...

Scientists discover master regulator of cellular aging

January 12, 2017
Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have discovered a protein that fine-tunes the cellular clock involved in aging.

$89 test kit claims to determine how well your cells are aging. Does it work?

November 28, 2016
A new $89 test claims to calculate the age of the DNA in your cells and tell you how well you are aging. The test, called TeloYears, is the newest in a bunch of mail-order kits that measure the length of telomeres, the caps ...

For older men, short telomeres can be a sign of chronic stress

March 11, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—Andrew Steptoe of University College London and his colleagues have found that telomere length can predict how long it takes older men to recover from stressful situations. Men with shorter telomeres have ...

Researchers uncover key mechanisms of cancer, aging and inflammation

November 7, 2016
A team of University of Pittsburgh researchers has uncovered new details about the biology of telomeres, "caps" of DNA that protect the tips of chromosomes and play key roles in a number of health conditions, including cancer, ...

Recommended for you

Genetic changes associated with physical activity reported

December 10, 2018
Time spent sitting, sleeping and moving is determined in part by our genes, University of Oxford researchers have shown. In one of the most detailed projects of its kind, the scientists studied the activity of 91,105 UK Biobank ...

Study may offer doctors a more effective way to treat neuroblastoma

December 7, 2018
A very large team of researchers, mostly from multiple institutions across Germany, has found what might be a better way to treat patients with neuroblastoma, a type of cancer. In their paper published in the journal Science, ...

Progress made in transplanting pig hearts into baboons

December 6, 2018
A large team of researchers from several institutions in Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S. has transplanted pig hearts into baboons and kept them alive for an extended period of time. In their paper published in the ...

'Chemo brain' caused by malfunction in three types of brain cells, study finds

December 6, 2018
More than half of cancer survivors suffer from cognitive impairment from chemotherapy that lingers for months or years after the cancer is gone. In a new study explaining the cellular mechanisms behind this condition, scientists ...

Hybrid prevalence estimation: Method to improve intervention coverage estimations

December 6, 2018
LSTM's Professor Joseph Valadez is senior author on a new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which outlines proposals for a more accurate estimator of health data.

World's smallest wearable device warns of UV exposure, enables precision phototherapy

December 5, 2018
The world's smallest wearable, battery-free device has been developed by Northwestern Medicine and Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering scientists to measure exposure to light across multiple wavelengths, from the ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

richk
not rated yet May 15, 2017
cant/get/access/to/article.How/is/intensity/and/duration/of/exercise/generalized?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.