Exercise Is the Fountain of Youth
For years, we have been told by people in the medical field that you can’t do much about your genetic makeup. You are what you are and that’s just the way it is. You’ll grow old the same way your parents did. As with most all common beliefs, it turns out this one is not quite on the mark. There is a fountain of youth. It’s called exercise.
A new study has found that strenuous, long-term exercise may have anti-aging properties by the way it effects our chromosomes. “People automatically assume there’s not anything you can do about your genetics,” said Patrick McBride, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. “We can exercise our chromosomes.” Say what? How do you exercise your chromosomes? It’s not as if there are weight machines for the little guys.
McBride, who did not take part in the study, said the new research sheds light on a cellular level many of the known benefits of exercise. “Regular exercise is an anti-aging activity,” he said. While the study did not show that regular exercise can change genes directly, it does suggest that exercise may have beneficial properties at a chromosomal level, specifically on telomeres, which are the ends of chromosomes that are believed to have an impact on aging.
“I think this is a blockbuster study,” said Barry Franklin, a physiologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. Telomeres are akin to the biological clocks of cells, said Franklin, who was also not a part of the study. He noted the study helps to explain why exercise seems to reduce the risk of so many diseases. Exercise slows down your cell’s biological clock. Slowing down the biological clock of your cells means staying young longer. Thus, the fountain of youth is not a water source. It’s in your body.
More Studies Confirm that Exercise is the Fountain of Youth
In recent years, a number of other studies have trained their microscopic gaze upon telomeres, the DNA structures found on the ends of chromosomes. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine was awarded to scientists who discovered how telomeres protect chromosomes. You know the caps at the ends of shoelaces? They help to keep your shoelaces lasting longer because they prevent fraying. Telomeres are the caps to your chromosomes, protecting against genetic unraveling. The unraveling of your genes is linked to aging and certain diseases. You know how when the shoelace cap falls off and your laces start looking ratty? Same thing with your body.
After repeated cell divisions, your telomeres can become too short. When this happens, your cells die. The fewer healthy cells you have, the slower you regenerate, so to speak. As people age, telomeres get shorter. Some research has linked shortened telomeres to higher rates of certain maladies such as heart disease and infections. Shortened telomeres are also linked with cognitive problems and certain cancers, although the relationship with cancer to shortened telomeres is not fully understood.
The new study, which was published in the journal Circulation, examined the circulating white blood cells in middle-age lifelong runners, healthy middle-age people who did not exercise and younger distance runners. The study, which involved about 100 subjects, is one of the first to show a correlation between vigorous, lifelong exercise and the length of telomeres.
Ulrich Laufs, the study’s co-author, who is a researcher at Saarland University in Germany, said one of the key findings was that lifelong exercise seems to prevent telomere shortening. Laufs cautioned that study was not designed to determine much a person needs to run or exercise to live longer. Nonetheless, exercise does appear to be a major factor to help stabilize telomeres.
The people in the study exercised a lot. The middle-age subjects, whose average age was 51, had a history of running since they were young. Most averaged about 50 miles each week. These folks were compared with another group of healthy folks who were similar age-wise, but who did not exercise. Overall, the middle-age runners had less loss of telomere length than the couch potatoes. They also had substantially higher amounts of proteins that help preserve telomeres. Is exercise the fountain of youth, or what?
The study corroborates research from last year that also suggested a benefit from exercise on telomeres. That study involved 2,401 twins, who are people who have nearly identical genes. It found an association between telomere length and a life of leisure. It concluded that a sedentary lifestyle may accelerate the aging process as the result of telomere shortening. The research revealed that the more active individuals in twin pairs had longer telomeres. This means that even if you were born with the same genes as another person, you can affect your aging process through exercise.
The bottom line is that the study seems to confirm something that most of us who practice a fit and healthy lifestyle already know–exercise keeps you feeling and looking younger. Exercise is the fountain of youth. I know from my own experience that at age 44, I am as fit now as I was when I was in my twenties. If anything, I’m probably stronger overall. Statistically, my health and fitness should be on a downward slope. My gut should be enormous and I have epic man-boobs like other middle-age men. My body doesn’t believe in statistics, however, it believes in training. Click this link to see what middle age can look like. Want even more evidence? Look no further than Mr. P90X himself, Tony Horton. Tony celebrated his 54th birthday this year and he can outwork most people in their twenties. You better bring your top game if you want to keep up with him in a workout.
Ready to dip into the fountain of youth? Have you been meaning to get back into shape but have been putting it off for one reason or another? Consider this article a signal that the time is now. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or a private message through Facebook. Let’s get the conversation started.
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