Does exercise slow the aging process?

We still haven’t found the fountain of youth, but there’s more and more evidence that getting exercise is one of the best things you can do to forestall the effects of aging.

A study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise , looks at what happens to telomeres as we get older. Telomeres are the parts of our cells that affect how we age. Telomeres are caps protecting our chromosomes, much like those plastic tips that protect the end of shoelaces. As we age, these caps wear out and allow the chromosome to fray and age. But there is evidence that exercise helps the telomeres not wear out.

The study found a clear positive association between exercise and the length of telomeres in the study’s participants. (You can read a more detailed description of this study in this article.)

Biking & feeling young again

Another study published in the Journal of Physiology, found that participants—who were cyclists—had a physiological function that placed them at a younger age compared to the general population. One of the study researchers, Stephen Harridge, noted that being physically active makes your body function on the inside more like a young person’s.

How often should you exercise?

Neither study considers that question but a general guideline is to get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. If you don’t already exercise, you’ll find ideas for getting started here.

By Rosemary Agostini, MD
Activity, Exercise, and Sports Medicine specialist