There is a lot of debate around how much exercise is too much. While an ageing former-marathoner might tell you that running has proven hard on their knees, historically it has been less clear what years of high-level endurance exercise means to our cellular health. Fortunately for us, using telomere data, researchers have set out to determine: how much is too much of a good thing?
In terms of telomere length – there doesn’t appear to be such thing as too much exercise. Ultra-runners (people who race at distances greater than 26.2 miles) have markedly longer telomeres than sedentary individuals. When compared to otherwise healthy but more sedentary individuals, the cells of ultra-runners were about 16 years younger. This means that regular exercise should be seen as one of the leading interventions not only for overall health but also for cellular longevity.
In terms of the mechanism for younger cells and longer telomeres, it appears as if regular aerobic exercise is shown to increase telomerase expression — Telomerase is responsible for replenishing lost-telomere length.
Another study found a similar result, and that it is much more apparent in older individuals than young ones. As people age, their cells go through more divisions, which is what shortens telomeres. An obvious conclusion is that as we age, it becomes increasingly important to keep up with physical fitness.
Not just for cellular health, researchers in the study noted that the effect was apparent even on study participants faces.
the scientists noted one aspect of their older runners. It ‘‘was striking,’’ recalls Dr. Christian Werner, an internal-medicine resident at Saarland University Clinic in Homburg, ‘‘to see in our study that many of the middle-aged athletes looked much younger than sedentary control subjects of the same age.’’
So naturally we recommend staying fit, as it is not only great for cellular health, but also for resolving anxiety, increasing your mood, and a range of other health benefits. If you really want to know the effect of exercise on your own telomeres, we would recommend taking our test and finding out!