Science can really light a fire under your butt, especially if you have a middle-aged one. Just as you may be tempted to slow down your exercise regimen as you get over the hill, there is now scientific reason to believe that exercising will actually slow down your aging process, gifting you the best gift ever—a longer life.
Telomeres, the cell component of our DNA (picture a cap on the end of the DNA strand) that affects how we age, have been studied to gain insight into how long we’ll live—the shorter or more frayed the cell, the shorter the lifespan. Age, diabetes, smoking and insomnia have shown to impact the length of your telomeres. But researchers wanted to test out another potential factor that could keep your telomeres cells long and strong as you age, so they tested exercise.
You’re well aware of exercise’s bazillion benefits, including longevity, but this new study zeros in on how exactly exercise impacts our number of years on earth. Researchers from the University of Mississippi and the University of California, San Francisco gathered data on 6,500 people between the age of 20 and 84. The data included details on people’s exercise routines, for example if they walk or rode their bike to work and how often they worked out. It also included their blood samples so they could study their telomere length in association with their exercise habits.
They found that the more that people exercised, the longer their telomeres. People who reported having the most activity (from working out to commuting) were 59 percent less likely to have short telomeres compared to those who were less active (such as exercising twice a week), who were 29 percent less likely to have shorter telomeres. They also found a correlation with age: The associations were strongest in people ages 40 to 65, suggesting that middle agers especially should get moving.
The results just add to the indicators that exercise wins all—strengthening cognitive ability, stress relief, lowering risk of disease and now more precious time to live. Thank you to science for the motivation.