Looking to fight the signs of ageing? Keep working out!

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In a recent study presented by the American Medical Association, researchers looked at 2400 twins (male and female) and their leukocyte telomere dynamics (telomere length and age-dependent attrition rate). I know that’s a mouthful, so before we go any further, here’s a quick, basic biology lesson to make sure everyone can follow along:

Leukocytes are cells in the body that are part of your immune system and help fight off disease. OK, so what about telomeres? Well, in your cells there’s a nucleus, which controls the activities of the cell. Think of it as the cell’s control centre. Within the nucleus are chromosomes, which carry the genetic code (this is the information that makes you – you). These chromosome look like an “X”. Telomeres are at the “end points” of a chromosome. They help protect the chromosome by preventing deterioration and fusing with other chromosomes. As a cell divides, the telomere becomes shorter. Eventually, the telomere becomes too short to replicate and the cell dies. With that in mind, it’s believed that leucocyte telomere dynamics (once again, telomere length and age-dependent attrition rate) are a biological indicator of human aging. That is, they shorten as you age. Interestingly, leucocyte telomere length has also been shown to be shorter in diseased states, which increases oxidative stress (e.g. coronary artery disease, diabetes, heart failure, and osteoporosis).

OK, so now that the biology lesson is out of the way, let's get back to the study...

As mentioned, the researchers studied 2400 twins. They measured and compared their leucocyte telomere length. They also took into consideration their age, sex, body mass index, socioeconomic status, smoking history, and their physical activity at work and leisure (non-weight and weight bearing). What’s interesting about the latter is that they took into account the amount of time the subjects engaged in physical activity at leisure.

After adjusting for all the other variables, the researchers found that leucocyte telomere length was positively associated with the more time a person engaged in physical activity at leisure.

This is good news for all of you who exercise! The researchers also conclude that a sedentary lifestyle along with smoking, a high body mass index, and low socioeconomic status have an effect on leucocyte telomere length and may accelerate aging.

So what’s the take-home message? Keep working out. It may be the "fountain of youth" you’re looking for.


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Mareike Bout is a qualified and registered personal trainer who specialises in holistic fitness and lifestyle coaching. She is a recognised leader in the industry, receiving the peer-voted South Australia Personal Trainer of the Year award in 2008. She is also a regular guest on Adelaide’s top-rating radio station FIVEaa. Mareike runs her personal training business, One Life Live Well, both online and from a private studio in Adelaide. Services include one-on-one training, outdoor group fitness, lifestyle coaching and weight-loss programs. Individually tailored programs encompass aspects of exercise, nutrition, relaxation, positive thinking, life balance, and goal setting. Her approach is to guide, support and educate her clients so that they posses the tools required to live a life of health, strength and vitality!