In the journal Circulation, Ulrich Laufs, MD and his colleagues report an association between long-term intense exercise and a reduction in the shortening of telomeres that occurs with aging.*
The researchers assessed telomere length in blood samples from professional runners whose age averaged 20, middle-aged athletes who had engaged in endurance exercise since youth, and young and old groups of untrained athletes who did not engage in regular exercise. Age-dependent telomere loss was found to be lower in the middle aged athletes who had engaged in endurance exercise for several decades compared to the older, untrained men. “The most significant finding of this study is that physical exercise of the professional athletes leads to activation of the important enzyme telomerase and stabilizes the telomere,” noted Dr. Laufs. “This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise. Physical exercise could prevent the aging of the cardiovascular system, reflecting this molecular principle.”
Editor’s note: Several factors have been associated with reduced telomere shortening, including multivitamin supplementation and other lifestyle improvements.