There may be some truth to the adage that “you’re only as old as you feel.” Your chronological age and your biological age may differ – your real age or your “wear and tear” is actually measured at the cellular level. An article on chronological vs biological age by Stephanie Castillo in Medical Daily explains:

“Experts consider telomeres — the protective ends of chromosomes — when calculating this age difference. Telomeres work to keep chromosome ends from deteriorating or fusing with a neighboring chromosome, affecting how quickly cells age and die.

“Every time that a cell divides, a telomere bead falls off from the end of the chromosome,” Grossman said. “It appears there is a direct correlation between telomere length and biological age. The longer you live, in other words the greater your chronological age, the shorter the total length of your telomeres.”

Now, a new study published this month in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reports that physical activity may slow the aging process in our cells. Gretchen Reynolds reports on the study in the New York Times in her article Does Exercise Slow the Aging Process? She explains:

“As a cell ages, its telomeres naturally shorten and fray. But the process can be accelerated by obesity, smoking, insomnia, diabetes and other aspects of health and lifestyle.

In those cases, the affected cells age prematurely.

However, recent science suggests that exercise may slow the fraying of telomeres. Past studies have found, for instance, that master athletes typically have longer telomeres than sedentary people of the same age, as do older women who frequently walk or engage in other fairly moderate exercise.”

The recent study showed that the risk of shortened telomeres was lower for people who engaged in physical activity – and the more varied the activities, the greater the decrease. The risk reduction ranged from 3% for those engaging in one activity to as much as 59% for those participating in four different activities. The types of activities ranged from moderate, such as walking, to more vigorous types of activity. In addition, the impact seemed greatest for those aged 40 to 65 “…suggesting that middle age may be a key time to begin or maintain an exercise program if you wish to keep telomeres from shrinking.”

The news about the effect on middle agers is great: It demonstrates that if you think it’s too late for exercise have an impact on your longevity, you’re wrong! Engaging in even moderate levels of physical activity can have a positive impact.

If you are a Member of TotalCare Wellness, why not call a Coach for ideas on how to start an exercise regime?

Additional information on aging and exercise

Learn more about telomeres and their effect on aging

Learn more about the research: Movement-Based Behaviors and Leukocyte Telomere Length among US Adults


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