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Exercising, Aging, and New Year’s Resolutions

So Christmas has come and gone. Healthy New Year resolutions are underway and hopefully not already derailed. So, to help motivate you to continue or even start, it is never too late to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle. I’ll be sharing some of the positive data about the benefits of making exercise a must in your daily routine.

We all know that the aging process is inevitable, but how fast we age may depend on exercise. In a study developed by Ulrich Laufs, professor of clinical and experimental medicine from the Saarland University in Homburg Germany, it was found that intense exercise may prevent the shortening of Telomeres in the cell. The what you say? Let me explain what the telomeres are.

They are the DNA that bookend chromosome strands and protect the ends from damage; picture a cap at the end of a shoelace. The shortening of these telomeres limits the cell’s division and can be considered a biological clock. The shortening of these telomeres leads to aging on a cellular level. So biologically speaking, if the telomeres get too short for cell division the cell dies. This is then related to the aging process.

I once had this process explained to me in a physiology class: if you take a master copy and run that copy through a copy machine, take the copy you just printed off and copy that one and so on. Eventually, the copy will fade to the point of obscurity. Again, this process happens over a person’s lifetime and is considered part of aging.

But wait! There is some great news on this front. We’ve come to find out exercise may enhance the life of the telomeres, by activating the enzyme telomerase that stabilizes the telomeres. How did these researchers come to this conclusion? They studied three groups of subjects. One group were highly competitive athletes, while the other two groups were healthy non-smoking individuals. It turns out that the telomeres in the highly trained athletes were longer than the two groups that were healthy but didn’t exercise and were non-smokers.

Do not worry, you do not have to be a competitive athlete to achieve this cellular benefit. Just add in some HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts two to three times a week, or work the spin bike with some interval training. My go to is in the pool doing some 80% effort swimming, but whatever you choose to do, do it consistently, because the combination of intensity and consistency is the key to success.

Just think, if Juan Ponce De Leon knew that he might have spent a little more time exercising instead of searching for the Fountain of Youth.

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