People whose leisure time is filled with physical activity appear to be biologically younger than people with a sedentary lifestyles, according to a recent report. “A sedentary lifestyle increases the propensity to aging-related diseases and premature death. Inactivity may diminish life expectancy not only by predisposing to age-related diseases but also because it may influence the aging process itself,” the authors write.
Questionnaires on physical activity level, smoking habits, and socioeconomic status were sent to 2,401 caucasian twins. The twins also gave a blood sample from which DNA was extracted. Also checked were the length of telomeres in the twins’ white blood cells. Telomeres progressively shorten over time and may serve as a measurement of biological age.
People who were less physically active in their leisure time had shorter leukocyte telomeres than those who were more active. “Such a relationship between leukocyte telomere length and physical activity level remained significant after adjustment for body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity at work,” the authors write, “and the most active subjects had telomeres the same length as sedentary individuals up to 10 years younger, on average.”
Sedentary lifestyles can also shorten telomeres by allowing oxidative stress. Physical activity may reduce psychological stress, lessening its effect on telomeres and the aging process.
“The U.S guidelines recommend that that 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least five days a week can have significant health benefits’ the authors write. “Our results underscore the vital importance of these guidelines. They also show that adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals.”
Source: Arch Intern Med. 2008;168:154-158.