Volume 2, Issue 1
January 1, 2009
The New Year's resolution
proven to lengthen your life
It's 2009 already. The days seem to sail by. The older I get, the more I find myself looking for ways to extend my life — and to be healthy during those extra years. Well, guess what? There's a New Year's resolution that can do just that for you.
That resolution, of course, is to exercise. I know exercise isn't exciting. But don't let that stop you from reading the rest of this alert. That's because exercise does a lot more than just strengthen your heart, improve your circulation, improve lung function, improve immunity, and prevent just about every disease there is.
A new study shows that exercise may be the most important thing you can do to keep you young, even as you grow old. The researchers evaluated questionnaire responses from 2,401 twins.ÿ These twins provided information on medical history, smoking habits, socioeconomic status, and physical activity level over the past 12 months. Then the researchers took blood samples and evaluated the white blood cells of each twin with respect to telomere length.
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What are telomeres? The dictionary says they are repeated DNA sequences which cap the ends of chromosomes. But that doesn't help much. In a nutshell, telomeres help your cells maintain their genetic coding during cell division. Every time your cells split in half, the DNA splits in half. When this happens, it clips off the ends of the chromosomes (the telomeres).
These telomeres don't contain any genetic code, so getting clipped doesn't cause any damage to your genes. If the telomeres were not there, your cells would lose part of your genetic code every time they divided. And, as a result, you would age very rapidly.
Unfortunately, as you age, your telomeres become shorter and shorter. If they get too short, cell division will begin to take off part of the chromosome that has genetic code. That's what causes you to age faster.
o the better your cells can maintain telomere length, the slower you'll age. And the researchers in this study found that men and women who exercise regularly have longer telomeres than those who don't — considerably longer.
That means that they will age at a much slower rate.
In fact, among the twins in which one was a good exerciser and the other wasn't, the one who engaged in the most exercise had much longer telomeres than the one who exercised less. The average telomere length in the most active twins translated into a net decrease in biological age of almost 10 years!
In other words, you can add up to 10 years to your life span simply by exercising regularly. I've told my patients for years that they shouldn't overdo their exercise, as this can damage your cells as well. But getting regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. So make a resolution today to begin exercising three to four times a week.
Finding your Real Cures,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Cherkas LF, Hunkin JL, et al. "The association between physical activity in leisure time and leukocyte telomere length." Arch Intern Med. 2008 Jan 28;168(2):154-8.