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Endurance Exercise Slows Aging According to Study Featured

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runnersEndurance training like the workouts done for track competitors may slow aging in older individuals according to a new anti-aging study published in the Journal PLOS ONE.

According to the study, which looked at telomeres, the caps on chromosomes that include repetitive, noncoding DNA sequences, endurance exercise protected older adults against the effects of aging.

 The endurance athletes studied had significantly longer telomeres compared with their less active counterparts, a relationship that was not seen among individuals in their 20s.

The results "suggest that endurance exercise training may regulate the telomeres in old age and results in slowing of [the] aging process by maintaining telomere length," according to Javaid Nauman, PhD, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, and colleagues.

The researchers noted, however, that the findings, which were based on a small sample of just 20 Among individuals ages 66 to 77, should be considered preliminary and interpreted cautiously.

Telomeres and Aging

Telomeres shorten over time as cells continue to reproduce. Telomere length has been related to both cellular age and the physical aging process. Studies examining the association between telomere length and exercise training and capacity have yielded inconsistent results.

Anti-Aging Telomere Study

To explore the issue, the researchers recruited 20 men, half of whom were ages 22 to 27 (mean age about 24) and the other half ages 66 to 77 (mean age about 69). In each age group, half of the participants were endurance athletes who were taking part in a cross-country ski race or track competitions. The others were nonathletes who were active, but who had never competed at higher levels in any sports.older runners

All of the participants were free from known cardiovascular disease, obesity, and a history of current or past smoking. None was taking regular medications.

After muscle biopsies, mean telomere length was assessed using the ratio of the telomere repeat copy number to the single-gene copy number (T/S ratio) as measured by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) was measured as the participants ran on a treadmill.

In the older age group, the endurance athletes had significantly longer telomeres (T/S ratio 1.12 versus 0.92, P=0.04), a difference that might have clinical significance in terms of longevity, according to the researchers.

"However," they added, "the design of the present study being cross-sectional in nature does not allow commenting about the causality of these results."

In the younger age group, telomere length was not significantly different between the endurance athletes and the nonathletes (T/S ratio 1.47 versus 1.33, P=0.12), possibly because of the small sample size or shorter exposure to physical activity.

Exercise capacity as measured by VO2max was higher for the endurance athletes both in the younger age group (67 versus 53.9 mL/kg/min) and the older age group (45.4 versus 39.4 mL/kg/min).

In the overall cohort, telomere length was positively associated with VO2max (r=0.70, P=0.001). The relationship was stronger among the endurance athletes (r=0.78, P=0.02) and fell short of statistical significance among the nonathletes (r=0.58, P=0.09).

Those findings "provide further support to the hypothesis that long-term exercise, higher aerobic fitness, and longer telomeres all are part of same phenotype expressed in some older adults," the authors wrote.

Besides the small sample size, they acknowledged other study limitations, including the inclusion of males only and the possibility of residual confounding by unknown or unmeasured factors.

The study was supported by grants from the K.G. Jebsen Foundation, the Faculty of Medicine, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reference: Østhus I, et al "Telomere length and long-term endurance exercise: Does exercise training affect biological age? A pilot study" PLOS ONE 2012; DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052769.

Last modified on Saturday, 28 December 2013 11:37
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