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Athlete: Awonke Ngoma; Photography: Slade, Pure Studio

Vigorous Exercise Reduces Cell Aging

New research reveals you can slow down your biological clock at cellular level by staying active.

According to a new study, published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine, people who have consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those who have sedentary lifestyles. Telomeres are the protein endcaps of chromosomes. They are like our biological clock and extremely correlated with age. The older a person gets, the shorter the telomeres will be.

“If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won’t cut it,” exercise science professor Larry Tucker said. “You have to work out regularly at high levels.”

Tucker and colleagues found people with high physical activity levels have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of nine years over those who are sedentary and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active.

Highly active, in this context, was defined as exercising between 30 to 40 minutes five days a week.

Tucker said that, although the exact mechanism for how exercise preserves telomeres is unknown, it may be linked to inflammation and oxidative stress. Previous studies have shown telomere length is closely related to those two factors and exercise scientists have found that exercise can suppress inflammation and oxidative stress over time.

“We know that regular physical activity helps to reduce mortality and prolong life, and now we know part of that advantage may be due to the preservation of telomeres,” Tucker said.

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