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Physical Activity May Improve Aging Through Impacts on Telomere Biology

Stephen M. Roth

Physical activity has long been touted as a means of reducing susceptibility to age-related disease and multiple studies have shown reduced mortality rates in individuals with a lifestyle including regular exercise. A variety of mechanisms for how physical activity reduces age-related diseases have been explored and multiple, redundant explanatory mechanisms are likely to emerge. Evidence has emerged that physical activity may impact directly on telomere biology, one of the primary theories of cellular aging. Telomeres are located at the ends of chromosomes and as cells divide, incomplete DNA replication results in telomere shortening; once shortening reaches a critical threshold, cell senescence results. Investigators hypothesize that part of the favorable influence of physical activity on mortality rates and age-related disease occurs through a direct impact on telomere biology, including delaying rates of telomere shortening. The present review examines key recent findings in this area and explores some of the unanswered questions and future directions for the field.

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Telomere Length in Elite Athletes

Carlos A. Muniesa, Zoraida Verde, Germán Diaz-Ureña, Catalina Santiago, Fernando Gutiérrez, Enrique Díaz, Félix Gómez-Gallego, Helios Pareja-Galeano, Luisa Soares-Miranda, and Alejandro Lucia

Growing evidence suggests that regular moderate-intensity physical activity is associated with an attenuation of leukocyte telomere length (LTL) shortening. However, more controversy exists regarding higher exercise loads such as those imposed by elite-sport participation.


The authors investigated LTL differences between young elite athletes (n = 61, 54% men, age [mean ± SD] 27.2 ± 4.9 y) and healthy nonsmoker, physically inactive controls (n = 64, 52% men, 28.9 ± 6.3 y) using analysis of variance (ANOVA).


Elite athletes had, on average, higher LTL than control subjects, 0.89 ± 0.26 vs 0.78 ± 0.31, P = .013 for the group effect, with no significant sex (P = .995) or age effect (P = .114).


The results suggest that young elite athletes have longer telomeres than their inactive peers. Further research might assess the LTL of elite athletes of varying ages compared with both age-matched active and inactive individuals.

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Comparison of Telomere Length in Young and Master Endurance Runners and Sprinters

Matt Nickels, Sarabjit Mastana, Veryan Codd, Matthew Denniff, and Elizabeth Akam

telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), telomeric repeat-binding factor 1 (TRF1), superoxide dismutase 2, and glutathione peroxidase 1 were normalized to the geometric mean of housekeeper gene glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase using a Viia7 Real-Time PCR system (Applied Biosystems). Each reaction

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Effects of Progressive Resistance Training on Obesity Indices in Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the Relationship With Telomere Length

Gislaine S. Kogure, Cristiana L. Miranda-Furtado, Daiana C.C. Pedroso, Victor B. Ribeiro, Matheus C. Eiras, Rafael C. Silva, Lisandra C. Caetano, Rui A. Ferriani, Rodrigo T. Calado, and Rosana M. dos Reis

associated with obesity and IR. 9 A shorter telomere length has been associated with higher general and abdominal adiposity 10 and lower lean body mass, 11 particularly in women. 12 There is evidence that physical exercise can influence telomere and telomerase activity and could influence the regulation

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Effects of Competitive Triathlon Training on Telomere Length

Marcus Colon, Andrew Hodgson, Eimear Donlon, and James E.J. Murphy

.M. ( 2008 ). Relationship between physical activity level, telomere length, and telomerase activity . Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40 ( 10 ), 1764 – 1771 . PubMed ID: 18799986 doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817c92aa 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31817c92aa Mathur , S. , Ardestani , A. , Parker , B