Endurance but not resistance training has anti-aging effects

November 27, 2018, European Society of Cardiology
Microcopic image of thin sections of a thoracic mouse aorta exposed to a fluorescent probe to stain telomeres. Nuclei of cells are stained blue and telomeres are shown by red dots within nuclei. The fluorescence intensity correlates with telomere length. Red curved lines are from elastin auto-fluorescence. Credit: PD Dr. Christian Werner, University Clinic of the Saarland, Homburg, Germany, and the European Heart Journal.

Researchers have discovered evidence that endurance exercise, such as running, swimming, cross-country skiing and cycling, will help you age better than resistance exercise, which involves strength training with weights.

In a study published in the European Heart Journal today, researchers in Germany looked at the effects of three types of exercise—, and resistance training—on the way cells in the human body age, and they found that and high intensity training both slowed or even reversed cellular aging, but that resistance training did not.

Our DNA is organised into chromosomes in all the cells in our bodies. At the end of each chromosome is a repetitive DNA sequence, called a telomere, that caps the chromosome and protects its ends from deteriorating. As we grow older, the telomeres shorten and this is an important molecular mechanism for cell aging, which eventually leads to cell death when the telomere are no longer able to protect the chromosomal DNA. The process of telomere shortening is regulated by several proteins. Among them is the that is able to counteract the shortening process and can even add length to the telomeres.

The researchers led by Professor Ulrich Laufs, of Leipzig University, Germany, enrolled 266 young, healthy but previously inactive volunteers and randomised them to six months of endurance training (continuous running), high intensity interval training (warm-up, followed by four bouts of high intensity running alternating with slower running, and then a final cool down of slower running), resistance training (circuit training on eight machines, including back extension, crunch, pulldown, seated rowing, seated leg curl and extension, seated chest press and lying leg press), or to an unchanged lifestyle (the control group).

The participants who were randomised to the three forms of exercise undertook three 45-minutes sessions a week, and a total of 124 completed the study. The researchers analysed telomere length and in white blood cells in blood taken from the volunteers at the start of the study, and two to seven days after the final bout of exercise six months later.

Prof Laufs said: "Our main finding is that, compared to the start of the study and the control group, in volunteers who did endurance and high intensity training, telomerase activity and telomere length increased, which are both important for cellular aging, regenerative capacity and thus, healthy aging. Interestingly, resistance training did not exert these effects."

Telomerase activity was increased two- to three-fold and telomere length was increased significantly in the endurance and high intensity training groups compared to the resistance and control groups.

Take home image showing the effects of three types of exercise -- endurance training, high intensity interval training and resistance training -- on the way cells in the human body age, and they found that endurance and high intensity training both slowed or even reversed cellular aging, but that resistance training did not. Credit: Ulrich Laufs, Christian Werner and the European Heart Journal
"The study identifies a mechanism by which endurance training—but not resistance training—improves healthy aging. It may help to design future studies on this important topic by using telomere length as indicator of 'biological age' in future intervention studies," said Prof Laufs.

Co-author of the study, Dr. Christian Werner, of Saarland University, Germany, said: "The study has several implications: Our data support the European Society of Cardiology's current guideline recommendations that should be complementary to endurance training rather than a substitute. The data identify telomerase activity and telomere length as sensitive ways to measure at cell level the effects of different forms of exercise. Using these measurements to guide training recommendations for individuals may improve both adherence to and efficacy of exercise training programmes in preventing cardiovascular disease."

Previous research has shown that longer telomeres and increased telomerase activity are associated with healthy aging. However, this is the first prospective, randomised controlled study of the effects of different forms of exercise on these two measurements of cellular aging.

Prof Laufs said: "Physical exercise is widely recommended. However, prospective randomised controlled training studies are very rare because they require a great effort and there are no funding sources from industry. The numbers of participants in our study may appear small compared to large drug trials, however, to the best of our knowledge, this is the largest randomised study comparing well defined training modalities with a control group and with a long duration of six months. We hope that our project will stimulate confirmation and further studies in this field."

A possible mechanism that might explain why endurance and high intensity training could increase telomere length and telomerase activity is that these types of exercise affect levels of nitric oxide in the blood vessels, contributing to the changes in the cells.

"From an evolutionary perspective, endurance and training may mimic the advantageous travelling and fight or flight behaviour of our ancestors better than strength training," said Dr. Werner.

Limitations of the study include the fact that the number of participants is small, even though it represents the largest study to investigate this in a prospective and randomised controlled way; and the everyday activities of the participants outside the training sessions may have included elements of the other forms of , but this would be likely in all the groups, including the .

In an accompanying editorial by Professor Konstantinos Stellos and Professor Ioakim Spyridopoulos, from Newcastle University and Freeman Hospital, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK, who were not involved in the research, write that so far there has been no evidence that the role played by telomerase to maintain telomere length is implicated in the onset of cardiovascular disease, except maybe for heart failure. Rather, it appears that an acceleration in shortening may be a sign of increased oxidative stress and a higher turnover of cells, coinciding with diminished telomerase activity. However, telomerase leads to enhanced nitric oxide, decreased oxidative stress, reduced damage to ' DNA and reduced cell death, which are all important for delaying the clogging up of arteries with fatty deposits. They conclude that the findings from the study by Dr. Werner and Prof Laufs "clearly underline the advantage of aerobic endurance training compared to resistance in cardiovascular ageing".

Explore further: Resistance training and exercise motivation go hand-in-hand

More information: "Differential effects of endurance, interval and resistance training on telomerase activity and telomere length in a randomized, controlled study ", by Christian Werner et al. European Heart Journal. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehy585

"Exercise, telomerase activity and cardiovascular disease prevention," by Konstantinos Stellos and Ioakim Spyridopoulos. European Heart Journal. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehy707

Related Stories

Resistance training and exercise motivation go hand-in-hand

August 15, 2018
A recent study conducted in the University of Jyväskylä suggests that resistance training improves exercise motivation and contributes to making exercise planning among older adults. Exercise motivation and exercise self-efficacy ...

Scientists propose new approach to hitting the gym

July 26, 2017
James Cook University sports scientists are warning that fatigue from weight training can carry over to endurance training and the two activities must be better coordinated to maximise athletes' performance.

Endurance exercise training has beneficial effects on gut microbiota composition

October 16, 2018
According to recent research, endurance exercise training beneficially modifies gut microbiota composition. After six weeks of training, potentially inflammation causing microbes (Proteobacteria) decreased and microbes that ...

Got 10 minutes to spare?

May 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you're looking for big fitness results in a small amount of time, a twist on high-intensity interval training just might fit the bill. It also should fit into most anyone's busy schedule.

High-intensity interval training rapidly improves diabetics' glucose metabolism

April 10, 2017
New research reveals that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) increases glucose metabolism in muscles as well as insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes. After only a two-week training period, the glucose uptake in thigh ...

Recommended for you

Removing sweets from checkouts linked to dramatic fall in unhealthy snack purchases

December 18, 2018
Policies aimed at removing sweets and crisps from checkouts could lead to a dramatic reduction to the amount of unhealthy food purchased to eat 'on the go' and a significant reduction in that purchased to take home, suggests ...

Exercise may be as effective as prescribed drugs to lower high blood pressure

December 18, 2018
Exercise may be as effective as prescribed drugs to lower high (140 mm Hg) blood pressure, suggests a pooled analysis of the available data, in what is thought to be the first study of its kind, and published online in the ...

Junk food diet raises depression risk, researchers find

December 18, 2018
A diet of fast food, cakes and processed meat increases your risk of depression, according to researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Children of problem drinkers more likely to marry someone with a drinking problem: study

December 18, 2018
Children of parents who have alcohol use disorder are more likely to get married under the age of 25, less likely to get married later in life, and more likely to marry a person who has alcohol use disorder themselves, according ...

Folate deficiency creates hitherto unknown problems in connection with cell division

December 17, 2018
Folate deficiency creates more problems in connection with DNA replication than researchers had hitherto assumed, researchers from the University of Copenhagen show in a new study. Once a person lacks folate, the damage caused ...

A co-worker's rudeness can affect your sleep—and your partner's, study finds

December 14, 2018
Rudeness. Sarcastic comments. Demeaning language. Interrupting or talking over someone in a meeting. Workplace incivilities such as these are becoming increasingly common, and a new study from Portland State University and ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2018
"From an evolutionary perspective, endurance and high intensity training may mimic the advantageous travelling and fight or flight behaviour of our ancestors better than strength training," said Dr. Werner.

This is a purely none-science statement not supported or even suggested by all the experimentation done in the research. This is pure speculative myth regarding our origins. There is no way to verify this and hence it is not scientific.
not rated yet Nov 28, 2018
On me and my wife, 76 and 79 years old, this is proved with no health problems, because we are , running fast in slope or stairs each day 200m height (66 stores at least ). since 15 years.
This is evident,scientifically proved, if you keep training every days, running, cycling in slopes, and swimming in summer.
It is not necessary to measure telomeres,,it is sufficient to compare to our neighbors of the same age unable to run or cycle in slopes !!
Look at Robert Marchand yesterday 107 years old,and cycling yesterday 20km easily in France !!
1 / 5 (1) Nov 29, 2018
OMG! I'm gonna live for ever, LOL. Or die from an overdose of telomerase.
Or age backwards and die as a fetus.

To my wife: Here you have the proof that I was right when I started with ultrarunning XD

not rated yet Nov 29, 2018
Remember studys only suggest. They don't prove anything. But if only runners get to live longer, it's truly a cruel world.

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.