23 January, 2017
Telomere length was measured from DNA in blood cells. Although shortened telomeres have been linked to certain diseases, everyone's telomeres shorten over time.
Researchers evaluated the link between leukocyte telomere length (LTL) and sedentary time in 1,481 older women, who were either white or African-American, from the Women's Health Initiative - a cross-sectional, longitudinal study from 2012-2013, which examined the factors that determine chronic diseases in postmenopausal women. Furthermore, other conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, might accelerate the degeneration.
The findings were published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. "Therefore, it is possible that women who spend long hours sedentary coupled with less time in (moderate to vigorous physical activity) may not be exposed to these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory defenses".
The new study was performed by a team of scientists from the San Diego's School of Medicine (University of California) led by Aladdin Shadyab.
The sedentary time was assessed using both self-reporting and an accelerometer.
The researchers carried out a lot of comparisons and used multiple models to try to show sedentary time was linked to telomere length. For the duration of the project (approximately one week), the participants were asked to wear a special monitor and to complete a series of questionnaires pertaining to their daily habits. Women were aged 79.2 (standard deviation, 6.7) years, on average. "Women who did not meet the physical activity guideline and were sedentary for at least 10 hours a day were biologically older; their cells are aging faster than those of women who were less sedentary".
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Specifically, low physical activity seemed to account for an 8-year biological age gap between those who exercised and those who did not. The chronological age of a person doesn't always match the person's biological age. But Shadyab's study shows that sedentary behavior has potentially aging effects on the cells, and exercise may be one way to combat that aging process.
According to Shadyab, this is the first time that a study has investigated the link between sedentary time, exercise, and telomeres. The researchers found that the ends of their DNA strands known as telomeres are shorter than normal-this structure is known to providing protection to chromosomes against deterioration and shortening associated with age.
They also acknowledged women who have long-term illnesses are more likely to have a sedentary lifestyle, and the illness rather than the lack of exercise may cause shortened telomeres.
"Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old", he advised.
Shadyab also added that future studies will look at how exercise could affect telomere length in younger populations and in men.