Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Long-term physical activity has an anti-aging effect at the cellular level

Study highlights:

- Physical activity has an anti-aging effect at the cellular level, suggesting exercise could prevent aging of the cardiovascular system.
- Two groups of trained professional athletes were compared with those who were not trained athletes. The blood cells of the individuals with long-term exercise training exhibited molecular indicators of reduced aging.

Intensive exercise prevented shortening of telomeres, a protective effect against aging of the cardiovascular system, according to research reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers measured the length of telomeres — the DNA that bookends the chromosomes and protects the ends from damage — in blood samples from two groups of professional athletes and two groups who were healthy nonsmokers, but not regular exercisers.

The telomere shortening mechanism limits cells to a fixed number of divisions and can be regarded as a “biological clock.” Gradual shortening of telomeres through cell divisions leads to aging on the cellular level and may limit lifetimes. When the telomeres become critically short the cell undergoes death. The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to researchers who discovered the nature of telomeres and how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase.

“The most significant finding of this study is that physical exercise of the professional athletes leads to activation of the important enzyme telomerase and stabilizes the telomere,” said Ulrich Laufs, M.D., the study’s lead author and professor of clinical and experimental medicine in the department of internal medicine at Saarland University in Homburg, Germany.

“This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise. Physical exercise could prevent the aging of the cardiovascular system, reflecting this molecular principle.”

Essentially, the longer telomere of athletes is an efficient telomere. The body’s cells are constantly growing and dividing and eventually dying off, a process controlled by the chromosomes within each cell. These chromosomal “end caps” — which have been likened to the tips of shoelaces, preventing them from fraying — become shorter with each cell division, and when they’re gone, the cell dies. Short telomeres limit the number of cell divisions, Laufs said. In addition, the animal studies of Laufs and colleagues show that the regulation of telomere stabilizing proteins by exercise exerts important cellular functions beyond the regulation of telomere length itself by protecting from cellular deterioration and programmed cell death.

In the clinical study, researchers analyzed 32 professional runners, average age 20, from the German National Team of Track and Field. Their average running distance was about 73 kilometers (km), a little over 45 miles, per week.

Researchers compared the young professional athletes with middle-aged athletes with a history of continuous endurance exercise since their youth. Their average age was 51 and their average distance was about 80 km, or almost 50 miles, per week.

The two groups were evaluated against untrained athletes who were healthy nonsmokers, but who did not exercise regularly. They were matched for age with the professional athletes.

The fitness level of the athletes was superior to the untrained individuals. The athletes had a slower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure and body mass index, and a more favorable cholesterol profile, researchers said.

Long-term exercise training activates telomerase and reduces telomere shortening in human leukocytes. The age-dependent telomere loss was lower in the master athletes who had performed endurance exercising for several decades.

“Our data improves the molecular understanding of the protective effects of exercise on the vessel wall and underlines the potency of physical training in reducing the impact of age-related disease,” Laufs said.

The German Research Association and the University of Saarland funded the study.

Co-authors are: Christian Werner, M.D.; Tobias Furster, medical student; Thomas Widmann, M.D.; Janine Pöss, M.D.; Christiana Roggia, Ph. D.; Milad Hanhoun, M.D.; Jürgen Scharhag, M.D.; Nicole Buchner, Ph. D.; Tim Meyer, M.D.; Willfried Kindermann, M.D.; Judith Haendeler, Ph. D. and Michael Böhm, M.D.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association’s policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at

NR09 – 1158 (Circ/Laufs)

Additional Resources:
• The American Heart Association’s Start! initiative encourages all Americans to participate in regular physical activity. Start! includes personalized walking plans for people at any fitness level. Visit to download the Start! Walking Plans and locate Start! Walking Paths near you.

Karen Astle | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

How nanoscience will improve our health and lives in the coming years

27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

OU-led team discovers rare, newborn tri-star system using ALMA

27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

'Neighbor maps' reveal the genome's 3-D shape

27.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>