Cellular Aging: Can an Active Lifestyle Make You Younger?

An active lifestyle could keep your cells 8 years younger.

Want to slow down the aging process? A new study from the American Journal of Epidemiology shows that leading a sedentary lifestyle can cause cellular aging. The flipside: an active lifestyle may actually slow down the aging process of your cells.

Sitting all day is no good for us. A number of studies have shown that prolonged inactivity can lead to heightened risk for heart disease, for example. New research is showing that living an inactive life can also make us age more quickly.

The National Institute on Aging tells us that “over time, aging effects the cells of every major organ of the body.” The idea that bodily aging is a result of cellular aging is a fairly recent advancement in the sciences. The National Institute on Aging goes on to tell us that “around the age of 20, lung tissue starts to lose elasticity…blood vessels in your heart accumulate fatty desposits and lose flexibility.”

Of course, there are some processes of cellular aging that we can’t stop or seem to happen on their own accord as we get older. But lifestyle factors, the decisions we make on a daily basis, can greatly increase the rate of cellular aging: smoking, stress, alcohol consumption, even stress can speed up the process of cellular aging.

The Study

In a new study, titled “Associations of Accelerometer-Measured and Self-Reported Sedentary Time With Leukocyte Telomere Length in Older Women” (January 2017) lead author Dr. Aladdin H. Shadyab found that women who exercised for less than forty minutes per day and were sedentary for more than ten hours per day showed more signs of cellular aging than those who were more active or fit more exercise into their life.

Dr. Shadyab says in the study, “Chronological age does not always match biological age.” The good news: you may be able to slow down the aging process of your cells by staying active.

Telomeres are sections of DNA found at the end of chromosomes, and protect chromosomes from deteriorating. The length of telomeres is associated with aging and disease; as we age, the length of telomeres shortens until the cells die or transform into potentially cancerous oncogenic cells.

So, if you are interested in staying younger longer, this new study points toward one easy solution: get up off the couch, go for a walk, and stay active. If you sit at a desk at your job, get up and walk as much as you can!

Click here to read the Recommendations for Physical Activity from National Institute of Health.

Talk with your doctor about starting a new exercise regimen. If you need to find a provider, use our online “Find a Doctor” tool or call 906.228.9440.

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