PROVO, Utah — Researchers from Brigham Young University may have moved one step closer to unlocking the fountain of youth as a new study appears to have discovered how to slow cell aging.
The study, published in Preventative Medicine, found that those who remained highly physically active had much longer telomeres compared to individuals who were less active. Being highly active is comparable to jogging 30 minutes at least five times a week for women, or 40 minutes for men.
Telomeres — which are the ends of chromosomes that become frayed every time a cell replicates itself — are correlated with age and serve as a sort of biological clock. The older a person gets, the shorter their cells’ telomeres become.
“Just because you’re 40, doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically,” says Larry Tucker, a professor of exercise science at BYU, in a university press release. “We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies.”
The study analyzed exercise and telomere information from a CDC survey that had more than 5,800 participating adults (ages 20 to 84) and concluded that sedentary people had 140 fewer base pairs of DNA on their telomeres compared to those who exercised heavily.
Moreover, it found that those who exercised moderately or at a low level were no different than those who were sedentary.
Highly active people were found to have a biological clock about nine years younger than sedentary people and seven years younger than moderately active people. However, the mechanism for how heavy exercise affects telomeres is currently unknown, though previous studies have linked telomere length to inflammation and oxidative stress.
“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,” says Tucker.
The study is published in the July 2017 issue of the journal Preventative Medicine.