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December 1, 2009

Long-term exercise positively impacts cellular aging

Long-term exercise positively impacts cellular aging

In an article appearing in the December 15, 2009 issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, Ulrich Laufs, MD of Saarland University in Homburg, Germany and his colleagues report an association between long-term intense exercise and a reduction in the shortening of telomeres that occurs with aging. Telomeres are protective segments of DNA at the ends of chromosomes that shorten with cell division. Shorter telomeres limit the number of cell divisions, and have been linked with conditions associated with aging of the whole human organism, such as high blood pressure and dementia. Activation of an enzyme known as telomerase elongates telomeres.

The researchers assessed white blood cell telomere length in blood samples from 32 professional runners whose age averaged 20, middle-aged athletes of an average age of 51 who had engaged in continuous endurance exercise since youth, and young and old groups of healthy nonsmoking untrained athletes who did not engage in regular exercise.

Not surprisingly, the athletes in the study had slower resting heart rates, lower blood pressure, a lower body mass index, and improved lipids compared with those who did not exercise regularly. 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, who is a professor of clinical and experimental medicine at Saarland University's department of internal medicine. "This is direct evidence of an antiaging effect of physical exercise. Physical exercise could prevent the aging of the cardiovascular system, reflecting this molecular principle."

"Our data improves the molecular understanding of the protective effects of exercise on the vessel wall and underlines the potency of physical training in reducing the impact of age-related disease," he added.

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Getting the most from exercise

Exercise has been shown to increase life span by an average of one to four years for people who engage in moderate to difficult exercise routines (Jonker JT et al 2006; Franco OH et al 2005). Better yet, those additional years will be healthful years because exercise benefits the heart, lungs, and muscles. Even moderate levels of exercise have been documented to stave off many dreaded diseases of aging. Walking briskly for 3 hours per week reduces one’s chances of developing many chronic health problems (Chakravarthy MV et al 2002). Exercise may also alleviate depression and enhance self-image and quality of life (Elavsky S et al 2005; Schechtman KB et al 2001).

There are many benefits to a program of regular exercise. In addition to enhanced self-esteem, exercise can promote weight loss and aid in the prevention of a number of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. In addition, the following nutrients have been shown to enhance muscle function, promote quicker recovery after exercise, and increase strength:

Unfortunately, clinical trials using drugs that target Ras—such as tipifarnib, a farnesyl transferase inhibitor (FTI)—have been disappointing even in patients whose tumors harbor Ras mutations (Mesa RA 2006; Rao S et al. 2004). However, Ras gene activity can be slowed by:

  • Creatine
  • Carnitine—1000 to 2000 milligrams (mg) daily
  • Carnosine—1500 to 3000 mg daily
  • Branched-chain amino acids—containing at least 1200 mg L-leucine, 600 mg L-isoleucine, and 600 mg L-valine
  • Glutamine—500 to 1000 mg daily
  • Whey protein—consider taking 20 to 80 grams (g) whey protein daily. It is most important to consume whey protein before and immediately after your exercise session to make sure adequate protein is available to depleted muscles.
  • PPC—900 to 1800 mg

In addition, bioidentical hormone therapy may be considered to balance levels of important sex hormones, including testosterone.

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