Exercise is one of your body's most effective forms of preventative medicine. It can boost your mood, provide pain relief, and even clear your skin. But according to a new study from Brigham Young University, not all exercise is created equal—especially when it comes to turning back the clock. Take it from the study's lead researcher, exercise science professor Larry Tucker, "Just because you're 40, doesn't mean you're 40 years old biologically," he says. "We all know people who seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies."
It all goes back to biology and cell replication. The study found that DNA was better preserved in people who exercised regularly at a high activity level, as opposed to those who exercised regularly at a low or moderate activity level. This is key because preserved DNA equates to a younger physiology. Keep reading to learn how regular, high-intensity exercise can slow your body's aging process.
Let's slide into high school biology mode, just for a moment: At the end of every DNA strand is a telomere. Each time our DNA replicates to form new cells, we lose a little bit of each telomere. It's a natural process that happens as we age. "Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres." This is important to our biological aging process, seeing as telomeres are basically the gears in our proverbial biological clock.
To understand how exercise affected telomere length, Tucker analyzed data from 5823 individuals. He found that the telomeres of adults with high physical activity levels ultimately gave them a nine-year aging advantage over those who were sedentary, and a seven-year advantage compared to those who were moderately active.
So what counts as high physical activity? It's equivalent to jogging 30 minutes a day, five days per week for women, and 40 minutes a day, five days per week for men. The researchers aren't sure why exercise affects telomere length, but guess that it might be related to inflammation and oxidative stress, which fitness tends to counteract. Either way, the data speaks for itself. Dust off your jogging shoes, and hit a trail or sidewalk, and your future self will thank you.
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