A study published in the journal Circulation shows that strenuous, long-term exercise may help fight aging through its effect on chromosomes. This study found that white blood cells of endurance athletes had longer telomeres. A telomere is a region of repetitive DNA at the end of a chromosome, which protects the end of the chromosome from destruction. Exercise appears to slow the shortening of telomeres through up-regulation of telomere-stabilizing proteins. This reduces chromosome destruction.
Experts say this finding helps explain on a cellular level some of exercise’s benefits. Until now, no real research has shown exercise extends lifespan. Quality of life – yes, but length of life – no. “This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise,” according to Ulrich Laufs, MD, of Saarland University in Hamburg, Germany.