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Exercise for 9 More Years

Improve Your DNA Health


Updated February 27, 2008

We all know that exercise is good for us, but did you know that it can make you nine years younger? Even more interesting, researchers are beginning to understand how exercise keeps you young.

The first problem, of course, is figuring out how to define "staying young" or "successful aging." In this study, researchers decide to measure aging by the length of telomeres (the protective ends of your chromosomes that shorten as you age). Turns out, telomeres are one of the most important factors in aging. Researchers compared telomeres' length with exercise habits in identical twins.

Make Your DNA Younger

With over 1,200 pairs of twins enrolled in the study, researchers were able to determine the impact of exercise on the telomere length of white blood cells. In short, they could measure how exercise can make DNA younger and healthier. This is a huge new step in understanding how lifestyle play a role in aging.

What Exercise is Good For DNA?

Working up a sweat seems to be important. People who exercised vigorously at least 3 hours each week had longer telomeres and were 9 years younger than couch potatoes who did no exercise. This holds true after removing other factors like smoking, age, weight and activity level at work.

So What If My Telomeres Are Short?

Researchers believe that shortened telomeres can increase the risk of age-related diseases like high blood pressure, mental difficulties, cancer and more. This is because as telomeres shorten, there is more stress on your body's tissues to function correctly. Researchers believe that exercise helps reduce damage by free radicals, allowing your body to invest its resources in maintaining health instead of repairing damage.

Bottom Line

Exercise three hours a day not just for your DNA, but also to feel good and experience all the benefits of exercise.


Lynn F. Cherkas, PhD; Janice L. Hunkin, BSc; Bernet S. Kato, PhD; J. Brent Richards, MD; Jeffrey P. Gardner, PhD; Gabriela L. Surdulescu, MSc; Masayuki Kimura, MD, PhD; Xiaobin Lu, MD; Tim D. Spector, MD, FRCP; Abraham Aviv, MD. The Association Between Physical Activity in Leisure Time and Leukocyte Telomere Length. Arch Intern Med. 2008;168(2):154-158.

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