Can Exercise Fight the Aging Process?

To the long list of benefits already attributed to exercising regularly, it may now be possible to add that it literally keeps a person younger.


In a study published in January in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers gave questionnaires to and collected DNA samples from 2,401 white twins. The researchers then analyzed the DNA to determine the length of repeated sequences of nucleic acids called telomeres that are located at the ends of chromosomes and that shorten over time in cells that divide. The length of the telomeres in blood cells are believed to correspond with a person’s biological age.

The researchers found that, overall, study participants who reported being more physically active in their leisure time had longer telomeres in their white blood cells than those who reported less activity. In sets of twins who had different activity levels, the more active twins also had longer telomeres than the less active twins. This association held true after the researchers took into consideration the participants’ age, sex, body-mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status, and physical activity at work. The people who were the most active (reporting more than 3 hours of physical activity per week) had telomeres the same length as inactive people up to 10 years younger.

The researchers suggested that exercise’s potential to reduce oxidative stress and the resulting damage to cells may give it a protective effect against the aging process. They concluded that an inactive lifestyle may accelerate the aging process and, conversely, that regular exercise may have an anti-aging effect.

In another study published in the same issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, a system set up to help doctors discuss nutrition and physical activity goals with their patients helped overweight people with Type 2 diabetes become more active and lose weight. One group of participants received customized nutrition and activity goals from a computer program, and these goals were reviewed with the group members by their doctors at visits. The other group only received printed health education materials.

Over the course of a year, the members of the group whose doctors reviewed goals with them increased their activity more and lost more weight than the group that didn’t have this extra interaction. The study highlighted that increased communication between people and their health-care providers can help people make changes in their lifestyles.

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  • mellonie Q

    Yes, common sence really tells me, that if Iam active sure, I will feel better and the longer I stay active the longer my life will most probley be. Feel Better get out and do something active,we really don’t need someone to do a study, do we? mellonie Q

  • Ian Pitten

    I am very disappointed with this article. It basically bsays nothing and was a waste of time reading.
    Where are the stats and examples etc?

  • Jackie

    In addition to all the benefits of exercising I have also found if you exercise with a partner or group it can also help with depression and lift your spirits for the day. Even one friend you can rely on is a step in the right direction.

  • Glen

    Great article and its true.

    I’m a type 2 diabetic and I worked with a personal trainer (still do) for 9 months, once a week and 2 more time a week on my own. I was able to cut my Gyburide dosage by 75% and my blood pressure medication by 50% with no significant change in my diet.

  • Wm. Hovey Smith

    Exercise, such as going to a gyn, never appealed to me. What did, and does, is hunting. Our hunting seasons are long in the Southeast. For example squirrel hunting starts in mid-August and ends on the last day of February. Not only does taking squirrels reduce the number of yard pests, which can move inside with you if the population gets too high, they also provide good low-fat meals. I also deer, waterfowl, hog and quail hunt. For waterfowling and quail (and squirrels) I often use my Labs. They enjoy the experience, I do too and we all benefit. The result is that I purchase almost no commercial meat but eat deer, wild hogs, geese, ducks, swan (it is legal to take them in some states)and bowfish gar and carp to provide much of my fish. In many states seniors may even be given complementary lifetime licenses once they are 65.

  • PJ Daly

    All this is fine if you can avoid any physical injuries which will greatly hamper any exercise program.

  • John Thoms

    I think the article is great. I’ve been exercising now 5 days a week.I use a treadmill plus 2 five lb weights. I walk for 30 min. then I use the elastic bands for 15 min. I’m 74 and I feel great. I’m type 2 and I’m on insulin. Since I’ve been exercising my dosage has decreased.

  • parmasan

    Hmmmm did Ian read the same article that I just did? Interesting- we all know that frequent aerobic and resistance/strength exercises keep weight off (preferably combined with a sensible diet) lower BP, lower BG and cholesterol, strengthen bones,etc, etc. Slowing the aging process has always been a perceived benefit, but with this study of the telomeres length in relation to biological age in people who exercise regularly, it might become factual. Thanks for the info!

  • majkl

    The intense group had a great improvement in their ability to use sugar
    all the best