The Secrets of the Aging Process
Age is associated with increases in body weight, body fat, abdominal fat, deterioration of muscles, and arthritis. However, everything in the body happens at the cellular level. Outward signs of aging that you may see, such as wrinkles and grey hair, are only symptoms of what is happening on a microscopic scale.
A study carried out by Raul A Martins, using the RX imola, outlined an experiment, investigating how we can affect our own inner-biological make-up, on a much deeper scale than muscle build-up, through exercise and activity:
“To investigate the training effect of sixteen weeks of moderate intensity, progressive aerobic and strength-based training on metabolic health of old women and men. Sixty three sedentary individuals were randomly assigned to control or exercising groups. The training group was separated to aerobic or strength-based. Training took place 3 times a week. Subjects agreed not to change their diet or lifestyle over the experimental period. Exercising group attained after treatment significant differences on body weight, waist circumference, body mass index, diastolic blood pressure, triglycerides, total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol/HDL-cholesterol relationship, high sensitivity C-reaction protein and 6 minute walk distance. The control group only had significant differences on waist circumference” wrote R.A. Martins and colleagues, university of Coimbra.”
As shown in the experiment, exercising does not only affect our muscle mass and body fat index. It does, in fact, affect us on a cellular level.
Before outward aging symptoms are expressed, your cells, your DNA, and everything that makes up you is reacting to your lifestyle and responding appropriately. A particularly lifestyle-sensitive part of your DNA associated with aging are telomeres.
Telomeres are caps at the ends of DNA strands, made up of a combination of DNA and protein. They protect the ends of the chromosome and keep them stable. Telomeres, however, are incredibly sensitive and have a tendency to become damaged and unravel, prompting a process called “telomere shortening”. Telomeres are associated with the changing nature of our bodies, and therefore, are classed as important aging biomarkers – with their length indicating lifespan. Each time our cells divide, our telomeres shorten. After many dozens of years of cell division, these biomarkers have reached a point where they can longer become any shorter. At this point, cell division discontinues and this is where aging will occur, as cells begin to die faster than they are created. Our body begins to break down. Effects such as hair falling out and skin sagging, are all symptoms of telomere damage or shortening. Telomere shortening has not only been associated with aging, but also age-related diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
There is good news, Martins noted in his experiment that exercise appears to keep telomeres from unravelling, shortening and becoming damaged, and therefore, can be classed as a natural anti-aging activity.
Through examining white blood cells, scientists can monitor telomere shortening (and damaging) whilst monitoring exercise and lifestyle of subjects. Another group of scientists in Germany conducted a similar experiment, gathering women and men of different ages to examine their lifespans relative to exercising, they noted:
The sedentary older subjects had telomeres that were on average 40 percent shorter than in the sedentary young subjects, suggesting that the older subjects’ cells were, like them, aging. The runners, on the other hand, had remarkably youthful telomeres, a bit shorter than those in the young runners, but only by about 10 percent. In general, telomere loss was reduced by approximately 75 percent in the aging runners. Or, to put it more succinctly, exercise, Dr. Werner says, ‘‘at the molecular level has an anti-aging effect.’’
(Gretchen Reynolds, 2010)
So, to put a number on it, studies show, exercise can reduce the aging process by up to a whopping 75%.
As well as it’s anti-aging properties, there are a surplus of other benefits of exercising, such as increased release of endorphins and relieving of muscular pain. Currently, there’s a good deal of research being conducted into potential drug based approaches for telomere shortening, yet these drugs are still years away. So, for now, exercise and healthy eating is the only known way to stave off aging… As if we needed another healthy reason to get active!
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Read more about the experiment conducted on the RX imola:
Martins, R.A. et al. Effects of aerobic and strength-based training on metabolic health indicators in older adults. Lipids Health Dis. 2010, 9: 76.