"Long before it's in the papers"
January 28, 2015


Get lazy, age faster

Jan. 28, 2008
Courtesy JAMA and Archives Journals
and World Science staff

Peo­ple who are phys­ic­ally ac­tive in their spare time seem bi­o­log­ic­ally young­er than sed­en­tary types, re­search­ers re­port.

Reg­u­lar ex­er­cis­ers are al­ready known to have low­er rates of car­di­o­vas­cu­lar dis­ease, type 2 di­a­be­tes, can­cer, high blood pres­sure, obes­ity and os­te­o­por­o­sis, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists.

But be­yond this, “in­ac­ti­vity… may in­flu­ence the ag­ing pro­cess it­self,” the re­search­ers wrote, re­porting their find­ings in the Jan. 28 is­sue of the jour­nal Ar­chives of In­ter­nal Med­i­cine.

Lynn F. Cherkas of King’s Col­lege Lon­don and col­leagues stud­ied 2,401 white twins who filled out ques­tion­naires on phys­ical ac­ti­vity, smok­ing habits and so­ci­o­ec­o­no­m­ic sta­tus, and pro­vid­ed blood sam­ples for DNA tests.

The re­search­ers meas­ured the length of seg­ments of chro­mo­somes called telo­meres. Their length, which de­creases through­out a per­son’s life, is seen by some bi­ol­o­gists as a pos­si­ble mark­er of bi­o­log­ical age.

Peo­ple who were less phys­ic­ally ac­tive in their lei­sure time had shorter telo­meres in their white blood cells than those who were more ac­tive, Cher­kas and col­leagues found. “The most ac­tive sub­jects had telo­meres the same length as sed­en­tary in­di­vid­u­als up to 10 years young­er, on av­er­age,” they wrote. The rela­t­ion­ship “re­mained sig­nif­i­cant af­ter ad­just­ment for body mass in­dex, smok­ing, so­ci­o­ec­o­no­m­ic sta­tus and phys­ical ac­ti­vity at work.”

Sed­en­tary lifestyles short­en telo­meres probably through a pro­cess called ox­i­da­tive stress, in which ox­y­gen, al­though es­sen­tial to life, causes chem­i­cal dam­age to cells, the re­search­ers said. Ex­er­cise may al­so re­duce psy­cho­log­i­cal stress, they added, and this may af­fect ag­ing.

“U.S. guide­lines rec­om­mend that 30 min­utes of moderate-intens­ity phys­ical ac­ti­vity at least five days a week can have sig­nif­i­cant health ben­e­fits,” the au­thors wrote. “Our re­sults un­der­score the vi­tal im­por­tance of these guide­lines… adults who par­take in reg­u­lar phys­ical ac­ti­vity are bi­o­log­ic­ally young­er than sed­en­tary in­di­vid­u­als.”

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People who are physically active in their spare time seem biologically younger than sedentary types, researchers report. Regular exercisers are already known to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, obesity and osteoporosis, according to scientists. But beyond this, “inactivity… may influence the aging process itself,” the researchers wrote, reporting their findings in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. Lynn F. Cherkas of King’s College London, and colleagues studied 2,401 white twins who filled out questionnaires on physical activity, smoking habits and socioeconomic status. They also provided blood samples for DNA tests. The researchers measured the length of special segments of chromosomes called telomeres. Their length, which decreases throughout a person’s life, is seen by some biologists as a possible marker of biological age. People who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter telomeres in their white blood cells than those who were more active, Cherkas and colleagues found. The relationship “remained significant after adjustment for body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity at work,” the authors wrote. “The most active subjects had telomeres the same length as sedentary individuals up to 10 years younger, on average.” Sedentary lifestyles shorten telomeres probably through a process called oxidative stress, in which oxygen, although essential to life, causes chemical damage to cells, the researchers said. Exercise may also reduce psychological stress, they added, and this may affect aging. “U.S. guidelines recommend that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week can have significant health benefits,” the authors wrote. “Our results underscore the vital importance of these guidelines… adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals.”