Does Exercise Slow Down the Effects of Aging?
Joselyn Jedick, D.O., is a family medicine resident at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix.
Question: Is it true that exercise actually slows down the effects of aging?
Answer: New research has shown that regular exercise can slow the process of aging. Inside all of our cells are fragments of DNA called telomeres – which basically help cells stay healthy. New research has demonstrated that aerobic exercise can help lengthen the life of those important pieces of DNA.
A recent study in “Circulation” (a journal published by the American Heart Association) observed the makeup of telomeres in four groups of people:
- Healthy young non-exercising participants (average age 20)
- Middle aged non-active individuals (average age 50 years)
- Young professional athletes (average 45 miles running per week)
- Middle-aged athletes who had been active since adolescence (average 50 miles running per week).
Data that was obtained from 100 subjects showed that the group of older individuals who had exercised regularly since childhood had less erosion of their telomeres compared to non-active individuals of the same age. The older exercising group also had telomeres that were closer in length to both younger groups. These findings suggest that regular cardiovascular exercise may be protective against the degradation of telomeres despite the natural effects of aging.
Activities that qualify as cardiovascular exercise are those that are continuous and get the pulse up into the target heart rate zone. Some examples that can be done outside include: jogging, running, cycling, swimming and cross-country skiing. Cardiovascular exercise that can be done indoors includes: treadmills, elliptical machines, stationary bicycles, stair climbers and rowing machines. It is recommended that all adults get a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, five days per week.
Maybe modern science is finally catching up with wisdom of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, who once said that “lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”