By Laurel-Lea Shannon
We all know that exercise is good for us. It keeps us trim, fit and healthy. But did you know that it also keeps you young? A recent study by German scientists took four groups of men and women and measured their cells’ lifespan. Two groups were young adults in their 20’s, one made up of couch potatoes, the other, professional runners. These people were compared to two groups of middle-aged adults (average age 51), one a sedentary group, the other a highly active group of runners who averaged 84 km (50 miles) a week.
When scientists studied the cells of the people in all the groups, they found that both the young athletes and the inactive group in their 20’s had similar-sized telomeres. Telomeres are caps on the end of DNA strands; telomere length is considered an accurate indicator of cell age by most researchers. When telomeres get too short the cell dies. Look ahead twenty or thirty years at the older groups in the study— the telomeres tell a very different story. By middle age, the sedentary folks have lost a whopping 40 percent of their telomere length, whereas the energy bunnies, who have spent years logging dozens of kilometres a week, not only look younger than their counterparts but have maintained more of their telomere length, losing a measly 10 percent.
The study raises many questions. The most important one: Do we have to run 50 miles a week to get these results? The German researchers couldn’t answer this question, but they did conclude that intense exercise performed over many decades will improve telomere biology—meaning that if you stay active, you increase your chances of having a healthier, happier old age.
Source: New York Times