Pills, lotions, injections, surgery. The large market of anti-aging products and procedures reflects the desire of many to slow down the "hands of time." The lengths to which some are willing to go to recapture their youth seem to be never-ending. Fortunately, the results of recent research appear to indicate that you may not need to look any further than your own backyard. In fact, the secret to turning back time may be hiding in your closet, collecting dust. In other words, a good pair of running/walking shoes and a little dedication are all you need to slow the infamous "biological clock."
New research conducted by German investigators and published in the December 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association found that exercise has an anti-aging effect at the molecular level. It appears as though physical activity prevents the shortening of telomeres - DNA that is found at the ends of chromosomes and acts to protect these structures from damage. This finding is significant because the cells in your body are continually going through a process of growing and dividing. The telomeres shorten with each cell division. The cell dies when the telomeres become too short. Shorter telomeres limit the number of cell divisions, and hence, the life of the cell, thus speeding up the "biological clock."
Investigators compared the lengths of telomeres in blood samples from two groups of endurance athletes and two groups of inactive individuals. The athletic groups consisted of one cohort of young runners (average age of 20 years) and one cohort of middle-aged runners (average age of 51 years) with a history of endurance exercise. These two groups were matched by age to two groups of healthy, but inactive, individuals.
The researchers found that the athletes had longer telomeres, and that telomere length was significantly greater in those subjects with a longer history of endurance exercise. The investigators state that exercise activates telomerase, an enzyme that stabilizes telomeres and prevents their shortening. Therefore, aging at the cellular level is slowed by longer telomere lengths.
If you are looking to add more hours to your "biological clock," try adding more minutes to your exercise routine. The more years of exercise you log, the younger you may get.
Note: Before beginning an exercise program or increasing the intensity level of a current routine, a physician's approval should be obtained, especially for older adults and those at risk for or who currently have chronic health conditions.
American Heart Association
News Release: "Long-term Physical Activity has an Anti-aging Effect at the Cellular Level," November 30, 2009.
Circulation. 2009;120:S492, "Abstract 1380: Beneficial Effects of Long-term Endurance Exercise on Leukocyte Telomere Biology," Werner, C. et al.
Labels: anti-aging, exercise, fountain of youth, physical activity, telomere