Activity Slows down Cellular Aging

For the first time, a study has explored the link between sedentary time, exercise, and telomeres.

In the study, exercise science professor Larry Tucker from Brigham Young University compared telomere length with levels of physical activity. His findings showed significant differences between those who did regular, vigorous exercise and those who did not.

“Just because you’re 40, doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically,” he said in a statement. “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.”

He discovered adults with a high level of physical activity had a “biological aging advantage” of nine years compared to sedentary adults. When compared with those who did a moderate amount of exercise, the difference for highly active adults was seven years.

A sedentary lifestyle is one with irregular or no physical activity. The person who follows such a lifestyle is often referred to as a “couch potato” because he or she spends most of the time sitting, watching television, working on a computer, texting, playing video games, reading, and similar activities.

Unfortunately, such a lifestyle can contribute to numerous causes of death or negative health consequences, many of which might have been prevented.

Cells make up every organ in the body, and the rate at which the cells die varies in each individual. Other lifestyle factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, and stress can also greatly influence the progression of cellular aging.

Our cells contain telomeres, repetitive sections of DNA which are located at the end of chromosomes. Those telomeres protect the chromosomes from deterioration, which is similar to the way that shoelace’s tips protect from fraying. As a person ages, the telomeres become shorter until the cells die or transform into oncogenic cells that have the potential to cause cancer. Short telomeres have been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.

“Overall, physical activity was significantly and meaningfully associated with telomere length in U.S. men and women,” he wrote. “Evidently, adults who participate in high levels of physical activity tend to have longer telomeres, accounting for years of reduced cellular aging compared to their more sedentary counterparts.”

This is the first time that a study has investigated the link between telomeres, sedentary time, and exercise. It highlighted the importance of lifestyle choices because those women who sat for a long time did not have shorter telomere lengths if they did exercises for the national recommended guideline of at least 30 minutes a day. Physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives even when we are 80 years old.