Exercisers Biologically Younger Than Couch Potatoes

Mean leukocyte telomere length is significantly longer in those who report the most exercise

TUESDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Regular exercise may independently retard aging and reduce the risk of age-related diseases, according to research published in the Jan. 28 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Lynn F. Cherkas, Ph.D., of King's College London in the U.K., and colleagues studied 2,401 white twin volunteers including 2,152 women and 249 men.

Compared to subjects who reported the least physical activity during their leisure time, the researchers found that the most active subjects had a mean leukocyte telomere length that was 200 nucleotides longer, the same length observed in sedentary subjects who were 10 years younger. In a small group of twin pairs who reported discordant levels of physical activity, the most active twins had a mean leukocyte telomere length that was 88 nucleotides longer than the least active twins. The association between regular exercise and leukocyte telomere length continued to be significant regardless of age, sex, body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity at work, the investigators found.

"The U.S. guidelines recommend 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 show that adults who partake in regular physical activity are biologically younger than sedentary individuals. This conclusion provides a powerful message that could be used by clinicians to promote the potential anti-aging effect of regular exercise."

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