Physical Activity Confers Biological Youth Via Delayed Telomere Shortening

Life Extension Update Exclusive

January 29, 2008

Physical activity confers biological youth via delayed telomere shortening

Life Extension Update Exclusive

The January 28, 2008 issue of the American Medical Association journal Archives of Internal Medicine reported a study conducted by researchers in England and the U.S. which found that leisure time physical activity in men and women is associated with increased leukocyte (white blood cell) telomere length compared with that of sedentary individuals.

Telomeres are repeated DNA sequences which cap the ends of chromosomes that progressively shorten with age. According to the report's authors, "Oxidative stress enhances telomere erosion with cell replication, whereas inflammation entails an increase in turnover of leukocytes. Telomere dynamics in leukocytes might, therefore, chronicle the cumulative burden of oxidative stress and inflammation and, as such, serve as an index of biological age."

For the study, Lynn F. Cherkas, PhD, of King’s College London, and colleagues evaluated questionnaire responses from 2,401 twins, who provided information on medical history, smoking habits, socioeconomic status, and physical activity level over the past 12 months. Blood DNA samples were evaluated for leukocyte telomere length. They found, not unexpectedly, a decrease in length corresponding to the age of the participants, averaging a 21 nucleotide yearly loss. Subjects who engaged in less leisure time physical activity had shorter telomeres than those who reported greater activity. Mean telomere length in the most active participants, who performed an average of 199 minutes of weekly physical activity, was 200 nucleotides greater than subjects whose activity was lowest at 16 minutes per week. This increase in telomere length corresponds with a biological age of a sedentary person up to ten years younger. Adjustment for age, physical activity at work, body mass index, and other factors failed to reduce the significance of the finding. A separate analysis which compared pairs of twins with differing levels of physical activity resulted in a similar finding.

The discovery contributes to the known benefits of exercise, including reduced rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity and osteoporosis. “A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to aging-related disease and premature death,” the authors remark. “Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases but also because it may influence the aging process itself.”

“Adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals," the authors write. "This conclusion provides a powerful message that could be used by clinicians to promote the potential anti-aging effect of regular exercise.”

Commenting on such biomarkers as telomere length in an accompanying editorial, Jack M. Guralnik, MD, PhD of the National Institutes on Aging concluded that “Altering oxidative stress, inflammation, or other detrimental processes could have a measurable effect on these markers and ultimately on clinically relevant aging outcomes."

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Getting the most from exercise

Exercise has been shown to increase life span by an average of one to four years for people who engage in moderate to difficult exercise routines (Jonker JT et al 2006; Franco OH et al 2005). Better yet, those additional years will be healthful years because exercise benefits the heart, lungs, and muscles. Even moderate levels of exercise have been documented to stave off many dreaded diseases of aging. Walking briskly for 3 hours per week reduces one’s chances of developing many chronic health problems (Chakravarthy MV et al 2002). Exercise may also alleviate depression and enhance self-image and quality of life (Elavsky S et al 2005; Schechtman KB et al 2001).

There are many benefits to a program of regular exercise. In addition to enhanced self-esteem, exercise can promote weight loss and aid in the prevention of a number of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, the following nutrients have been shown to enhance muscle function, promote quicker recovery after exercise, and increase strength:

  • Carnitine—1000 to 2000 milligrams (mg) daily
  • Carnosine—1500 to 3000 mg daily
  • Branched-chain amino acids—containing at least 1200 mg L-leucine, 600 mg L-isoleucine, and 600 mg L-valine
  • Glutamine—500 to 1000 mg daily
  • Whey protein—consider taking 20 to 80 grams (g) whey protein daily. It is most important to consume whey protein before and immediately after your exercise session to make sure adequate protein is available to depleted muscles.
  • PPC—900 to 1800 mg

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Dayna Dye
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