It goes without saying that physical activity is good for you. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week to keep you fit and help prevent heart disease and stroke. However, a recent study notes that physical activity may also be a natural way to slow aging.
Presently, scientists loosely gauge a cell’s biological age by measuring its telomeres. What exactly is a telomere, you may be asking? Well, telomeres are caps at the end of your DNA strands that protect the genetic data. As you, and your cells, age, the telomeres become shortened and frayed. Think of telomeres as shoelaces that break, shorten, and become frayed over time.
Unfortunately, your telomeres can become shorter and more frayed naturally. However, the damage is accelerated if you are obese, smoke, have diabetes, are affected by another type of disease, or partake in unhealthy lifestyle choices. These factors may all age your cells faster, and your body will follow.
A recent study, published this month in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that telomere damage can be slowed through physical activity. Researchers at the University of Mississippi and University of California, San Francisco compiled data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found qualifying data for 6,500 participants between the ages of 20 and 84.
Researchers looked at four physical activities that participants did during a month, including weight training, walking, running, and biking. A “yes” to one of these activities earned one point. The study found that one point equaled a 3 percent decrease in having shorter telomeres. However, four points equaled a 59 percent decrease in having shorter telomeres, which may have a significant impact on a person’s aging process.
It is important to note that this study, while promising for the anti-aging effects of exercise, did not take into account diet or lifestyle choices. For example, if an individual smokes a pack of cigarettes and drinks a bottle of whiskey each day for four weeks, it is unlikely that they will have a 59 percent decrease in telomere aging even if they exercise.
However, the study is possibly onto something in stating that taking good care of your telomeres will help you slow the inevitable aging process. It may be in your best interest to keep those telomeres long and strong to age gracefully. Physical activity is a cornerstone to health and wellness, right beside a nutritious diet rich in the vitamins and minerals your body craves.
Staying fit will help keep obesity in your rearview mirror, which will significantly decrease your risk for some of this nation’s leading causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Even though you can’t see your telomeres fraying and breaking apart, pretend you can, and make physical activity a daily routine!
Stephen Seifert is a writer, professor, adventurer and a health & fitness guru. His flair for travel and outdoor adventure allows him to enjoy culture and traditions different than his own. A healthy diet, routine fitness and constant mental development is the cornerstone to Stephen’s life.