Can Exercise Keep You Young?


exercise to prevent aging

At a cellular level aging involves the shortening of telomeres found on the ends of our DNA which protect the DNA from damage during cell division. As the cell divides during the course of its lifetime the telomeres reduce in length. Scientists can measure the length of telomeres to determine the cells biological age.

In a relatively large study[1], over 6000 subjects between the ages of 20-84 years were surveyed for their physical activity level and subdivided into 4 exercise sub-categories: moderate exercise, vigorous exercise, walking/cycling for exercise and muscle strengthening exercise. The changes in their telomeres lengths were analyzed over a 3 year period.

It was found that people engaging in at least 1 physical activity had a modest 3% reduction in telomeres shortening, while the ones that participated in 2, 3 and 4 different types of physical activities saw a 24%, 29% and 52% reduction in telomeres shortening respectively.

The take home message from this study is that exercise prevents aging but mostly when many different modes of exercise are combined. Doing only one type of exercise is not only boring but minimizes the beneficial effect exercise has on aging. The greater variety in your physical activity the younger you will remain. So run, bike, play sports, do yoga and lift weights and you might stop aging all together…well perhaps not, but at least you would keep it to a crawl.


[1] Loprinzi PD1Loenneke JPBlackburn EH. “Movement-Based Behaviors and Leukocyte Telomere Length among US Adults.” Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Nov;47(11):2347-52.


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