I guess this is more relevant to cell biology or physiology but I thought some of you may be interested in this article in the New York Times today that describes research published in the journal Circulation that demonstrates that physical exercise can actually keep your cells younger.
Cell 'age' was assessed by looking at their telomere length. Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year you are probably aware that telomeres are tiny caps on the end of DNA strands and the discovery of their function won several scientists, including CCS biology graduate, Carol Greider, the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine.
The research looked at four groups of people: young and sedentary; middle-aged and sedentary; young professional runners in their 20s; and finally middle-aged longtime runners.
Cells in both the active and sedentary young adults had similar-size telomeres because when you are young none of your cells are old enough to have significantly shortened telomeres. But when they examined the middle aged groups they found a HUGE difference
In general, telomere loss was reduced by approximately 75 percent in the aging runners. Or, to put it more succinctly, exercise, Dr. Werner says, ‘‘at the molecular level has an anti-aging effect.’’
This study of course raises a lot of questions but it is really nice to have such a large effect and hopefully follow up studies will clarify how much exercise is required and for how long. The middle aged runners in the study were running an average of 50 miles a week and had a 35 year training history.
Anyhow if you want to stop your telomeres shortening you may need to start running now. Fortunately this Saturday sees the return of the UCSB Running Series. A good incentive to get out of bed and drag yourself around the lagoon a few times (and then eat pizza).