Working out often lengthens our biological clocks, study finds

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A study finds that extensive exercise can keep us looking and feeling younger regardless of age

Companies and researchers have searched for years to find a way to defy the aging process. Theories on how to do this have varied widely, from the use of topical creams to the number of calories we consume. However, one of the most common sense measures consumers can take to extend their lives is to get plenty of exercise.

Now, some experts are pushing that idea a little further. Researchers from Brigham Young University have found that consumers who are more physically active tend to be biologically younger based on their physiology.

"Just because you're 40, doesn't mean you're 40 years old biologically. 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," said professor and researcher Larry Tucker.

Biological aging advantage

In the study, Tucker and his colleagues found that people who regularly experience high levels of physical activity tended to have longer telomeres than those who led a sedentary lifestyle.

Telomeres are a sort of protein endcap found at the end of our chromosomes. When cells replicate, a tiny bit of these endcaps are lost, so consumers who are older tend to have shorter telomeres. Because of their nature, researchers say that telomere length is a great way to measure our biological clocks – people with longer telomeres would be younger biologically regardless of their age and vice versa.

The researchers say that those who are regularly active at high levels tend to have longer telomeres and are at a biological aging advantage of nine years when compared to those who are sedentary. When compared to those who are moderately active, these highly active individuals have a seven-year biological advantage.

"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.

Unfortunately, going to the gym every once in a while won’t cut it if you want to lengthen your biological clock. Tucker says that the type of physical activity required would involve jogging for 30 minutes per day, five days per week for women and 40 minutes per day, five days per week for men.

The full study has been published in Preventive Medicine.

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