There is now a significant amount of scientific research supporting the positive effect of regular exercise on our health. Various forms of exercise have positive physiological effects on our bodies to reduce our chances of developing a variety of medical conditions (heart disease, Diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis to name just a few…) But did you know exercise is also a really powerful tool to slow the overall ageing process?! We all know people who seem much younger than their actual age – and regular exercise plays a very influential role in that!
A recent large scale research study (almost 6000 U.S. adults) conducted by Exercise Scientists at the Brigham Young University in Utah has shed some light on the way in which exercise slows the normal ageing process of our cells. Telomeres are protein caps on the end of every DNA strand in our body - they protect our chromosomes, much like the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. Without the coating, shoelaces become frayed until they can no longer do their job, just as without telomeres, DNA strands become damaged and our cells can’t do their job properly. Essentially, the longer the telomere on each DNA strand, the more protection there is for those chromosomes.
The BYU research study found that the shortest telomeres were seen in people in the “sedentary” group. Interestingly, the telomeres in people in the “low” and “moderate” intensity exercise groups were only very slightly longer. But those people in the “high” intensity exercise group had significantly longer telomeres. The researchers equate that these significantly longer telomeres had a biological ageing advantage of almost 9 years over the shorter telomeres in the sedentary group!
In this particular study, high intensity exercise was defined as >30 minutes (or >40 minutes for men) of jogging, at least 5 days per week. Although if jogging really isn’t for you, there are a number of alternatives to achieving that sort of intensity.
The research couldn’t tell us exactly why the high intensity exercise preserved telomere length – however the researchers hypothesise that inflammatory levels and the oxidative stress caused by the damaging free radical molecules that roam our body (two things that we do know damage telomeres) is suppressed by the high intensity exercise.
So if you want to look younger, up your exercise intensity!
Don’t know where to start, or unsure if your body is up to doing some high intensity exercise?
Then why not book a FREE Assessment with one of our expert physiotherapists? Or you could join the wave of clients we now have undertaking our Functional Training sessions to do some high quality strengthening work under the supervision of our physios.
You can read more about the study here
Adrian Quinn (Member APA)
Physiotherapist & Practice Director at Back In Motion Camberwell