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Exercise may be anti-aging

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Keeping cells young with exercise might be the result of remaining physically active throughout life. New research shows that intense exercise may be anti-aging.

Results of a new study compared professional athletes to individuals who were healthy, but did not engage in regular exercise. Researchers found that regular physical activity keeps the cardiovascular system young at a cellular level by preventing telomeres from become shorter.

Telomeres are the part of DNA that protects chromosomes. When telomeres become shorter, cells die, making us more susceptible to disease. Telomere shortening is linked to a part of the aging process. The new study suggests that exercise can be anti-aging, based on findings that exercise makes telomeres more stable.

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The study, published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that intense physical activity stabilizes DNA, limiting damage to telomeres. According to Ulrich Laufs, M.D., the study’s lead author and professor of clinical and experimental medicine in the department of internal medicine at Saarland University in Homburg, Germany, “The most significant finding of this study is that physical exercise of the professional athletes leads to activation of the important enzyme telomerase and stabilizes the telomere.”

The study, performed on 32 professional runners who averaged a little over 45 miles per week. The average age was 20. A second group of older trained athletes, average age of 51, were also studied who averaged almost 50 miles per week. The two groups were then compared to athletic non smokers who did not exercise regularly. In addition to overall excellent health and lower cholesterol levels, the trained athletes also were found to have more stable telomeres.

The study shows that long term exercise may be anti-aging. Dr. Laufs says “Our data improves the molecular understanding of the protective effects of exercise on the vessel wall and underlines the potency of physical training in reducing the impact of age-related disease.” Exercise throughout life can have anti-aging properties on a cellular level by stabilizing telomeres.