Long term exercise promotes natural anti-aging

What role do our genes play in the aging process? How can exercise influence this role at a molecular level? Recent research shows that long term exercise promotes natural anti-aging.

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Elizabeth Blackburn, Carol Greider and Jack Szostak “for the discovery of how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.” This discovery is important to understanding how our bodies age, as one of the key signs of aging is the shortening of our telomeres.

Telomeres and the Aging Process

Telomeres are the structures, located at the ends of chromosomes, which protect the DNA from damage. During mitosis (cell division) the telomeres are shortened. Eventually the telomere will disappear altogether, leaving the cell unprotected. At this point the cell will either die or enter into senescence. This, in essence, is the aging process.



Given this description, it follows logically that the longer the telomere the longer its life, and the longer its life the longer ours will be.

The Anti-Aging Research

Researchers have conducted studies which show that; in our twenties our telomeres remain the same length regardless of whether or not we do exercise, however, by the time we reach middle age; if we remain inactive, our telomeres are 40% shorter than they were in our heyday. This is quite a dramatic statistic.

What is even more telling is that individuals in their middle age who are very physically active, or who have been long time runners, have telomeres only 10% shorter than their younger counterparts. It has also been observed that telomere loss was reduced by up to 75% in older athletes.




A researcher involved in the study, Dr. Christian Werner at Saarland University in Germany, said, “Exercise, at the molecular level, has an anti-aging effect. Any form of intense exercise that is regularly performed over a long period of time will improve telomere biology.”

Corroborative Anti-Aging Studies

His study is backed by the work of Thomas LaRocca, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Colorado.

LaRocca tested individuals between the ages of 55 and 72 for their maximum aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and compared it to the length of their telomeres. He found that those with a higher VO2 max had longer telomeres. Your VO2 max is a good indication of your level of fitness, therefore, LaRocca’s work further proves Werner’s study correct, in its recognition of the anti-aging benefits of exercise.

For ideas on how to start your exercise regimen click here.

For more information see Fitness Beyond Fifty.