This Is How Exercise Protects You From Aging


Some say you’re only as old as you feel, but new research from Brigham Young University reveals a new take. It turns out that your numerical age and cellular age can be dramatically different. And intense frequent exercise is as close to the fountain of youth we’re going to get when it comes to keeping our biological clocks ticking beyond our anticipated life expectancy.

The study, which was published in the medical journal Preventive Medicine, finds that people who exercise at high levels consistently have significantly longer telomeres (the protein endcaps of our chromosomes) than people who lead sedentary lifestyles or are even somewhat active. Longer telomere length translates to fewer cell replications, which is a primary action in the aging process. So when it comes to a person’s telomeres, active people have a nine-year biological aging advantage over sedentary people and a seven-year biological aging advantage over moderately active people.

Talk about sweat equity.


In the study, exercise science professor and lead author Larry Tucker analyzed data from 5,823 adults who participated in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, focusing on telomere length and activities participants completed within a 30-day time span. From there, he calculated levels of physical activity for the participants. To be qualified as “active” in this study, women had to jog for 30 minutes five days a week, and men had to jog for 40 minutes five days a week.

The shortest telomeres existed in the cells of the sedentary people, which was expected, but the telomeres in moderately active people weren’t dramatically different from those found in the less active bunch.

“The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies,” Tucker said in a statement. “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.”

We still don’t know how exactly exercise is able to preserve our telomere, but Tucker said it might be linked to inflammation and oxidative stress. Exercise can suppress both of these bodily reactions over time, and previous research links them to telomere length. (Transitive property, anyone?)

Cell science aside, you might want to keep that gym membership or pick up a healthy jogging habit so you don’t miss out on the only anti-aging behavior scientifically proven to work. Nine years is a long time, folks.