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Be Active to Stay Healthy and Biologically Younger!

Posted Aug 04 2008 4:10am
It is not uncommon nowadays to find that most people, irrespective of their ages, are not keen to exercise or just keep themselves active. Why does such phenomenon prevail?

People’s favorite activities, such as watching round-the-clock television programs, surfing Internet, electronic games, do refrain them from moving away from the sofas or chairs. Such unhealthy lifestyle could even cause many of them become overweight or obese if they also eat whatever they like.

In fact, physically active people do not just look better, they too appear to be biologically younger, according to a study published on January 28, 2008 in the Journal of the American Medical Association's Archives of Internal Medicine.

Researchers from King's College London examined 2,401 Caucasian twins and found that those reported having an active lifestyle had biological markers that appeared to be as much as 10 years younger, comparing with their more sedentary twins.

Health experts always urge people to stay active because a sedentary lifestyle does raise the risk of aging-related disease like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure, and premature death. In other words, inactivity may lower life expectancy not only by predisposing to aging-related diseases but also because it may influence the aging process itself.

The twins participated in the study were asked to fill out a questionnaire on physical activity level, smoking habits and socioeconomic status. Their blood samples were also taken. DNA was extracted from the white blood cells to examine the chromosomes in order to determine the length of a generic sequence called telomeres.

The length of telomeres decreased with age, with an average loss of 21 structural units per year. It is believed telomeres play an important role in the ageing process. Moreover, these telomeres were significantly shorter in the men and women who were less physically active in their leisure time. Such a relationship remained significant even after the adjustment for body mass index, smoking, socioeconomic status and physical activity at work.

The mean difference between the most active subjects, who averaged 199 minutes of physical activity per week, and least active ones who averaged 16 minutes of activity per week, was 200 nucleotides. This implies that the most active subjects had telomeres the same length as sedentary individuals up to 10 years younger. Similar results were also found when comparing twins with different levels of physical activity.

The researchers suggested that inflammation and damage caused to cells by exposure to oxygen are the likely mechanisms by which sedentary lifestyles shorten telomeres. Meanwhile, physical activity can also reduce psychological stress, which has also been linked to telomere length.

Sticking to the United States guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity at least 5 days a week can have significant health benefits.
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