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Aging process can be slowed with regular exercise at a ‘high level,’ according to study

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

If you are willing to exercise regularly at a “high level,” you may be able to slow down the aging process in your cells, according to a study.

“Just because you’re 40 doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically,” Larry Tucker, a professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University, said in a BYU news 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, to be published in the journal Preventive Medicine, found that “People who have consistently high levels of physical activity have significantly longer telomeres than those who have sedentary lifestyles, as well as those who are moderately active.”

Telomeres are tiny caps on the ends of human chromosomes that protect them from deterioration and progressively shorten with age. They are often compared to the plastic tip on the end of a shoelace that keeps your shoelace from fraying.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 5,800 adults in a multi-year Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey and found that the adults with high physical activity levels had telomeres that were biologically nine years younger than the adults who were sedentary, and seven years younger than those who were moderately active. High activity was defined as 30 minutes of jogging a day for women and 40 minutes a day for men, five days a week.

The study found that there was “no significant difference in telomere length between those with low or moderate physical activity and the sedentary people,” says the release.

“If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won’t cut it. You have to work out regularly at high levels,” Tucker said.

The release notes that it is not yet known how exercise preserves telomeres, but researchers think it may be tied to inflammation and oxidative stress, which exercise is known to suppress. “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,” Tucker said.

A similar study at the University of California San Diego that analyzed telomere length and activity levels in 1,500 older women found that older women who had less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and were sedentary for more than 10 hours a day were biologically eight years older than women in the study who were more active.

Resistance training could help keep seniors in their homes

Another study found the best exercise for seniors to help them live independently includes some resistance training because “a decline in muscle strength due to age and a sedentary lifestyle is often what undermines older adults’ ability to live independently,” says an Indiana University news release.

“Exercise, in general, is good for older people,” said Chiung-ju “CJ” Liu, an associate professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “It’s good for their health and good for their independence. But when we were helping older people become more independent, just exercise didn’t seem so efficient.”

With the goal of helping older people remain independent, Liu, an occupational therapist, created a 10-week “3-Step Workout for Life” exercise program that uses what people already had in their homes to do the exercises. And the exercises were always able to link back to senior’s daily living activities.

The first step in the program involves resistance exercises like bicep curls; the second step links these exercises to the participant’s activities of daily living; and the third step challenges the senior to increase their resistance activities.

Liu’s study found that “the results at the end of the 10-week three-step workout program were similar to that of a 10-week resistance-only exercise program.But older adults retained the benefits of the 3-Step Workout for Life when they were tested six months later, while the benefits of the resistance exercise program had significantly decreased.”

Click here for some sample strength exercises for seniors that can be done at home.

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