Raise your VO2max to delay ageing
People who do an aerobic sports activity every day age more slowly than people who lead a sedentary life, write physiologists from the University of Colorado in Mechanisms of Ageing and Development. Although these researchers studied endurance athletes, their research suggests that people who do explosive sports also age less fast.
Telomeres & aging
Researchers who want to determine how quickly an organism is ageing measure the length of the telomeres. Telomeres are found in the DNA of cells, at the ends of the chromosomes. Every time cells divide, telomeres get shorter. If the telomeres become too short, abnormalities start to arise in the cell, which ultimately cause the cell to die. The longer the telomeres are, the slower the ageing process goes. Usually researchers measure the length of telomeres in white blood cells.
From earlier studies, the researchers knew that a healthy heart goes together with longer telomeres, but in experiments where test subjects trained for a short period, nothing happened to the telomere length. Training does have an effect on telomere-regulating proteins, however. [J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Aug 5;52(6):470-82.]
The researchers reasoned that you probably only observe the effects of sport if you study athletes who have been practising all their life. That's why they decided to compare the length of the telomeres of older and younger men and women, of whom one half led a sedentary life [Sed] and the other half did at least 45 minutes of endurance sports activity on 5 or more days a week [Ex].
The younger men and women were aged between 18 and 32. In this group sport had no influence on telomere length. But in the older men and women, who were aged between 55 and 72, the telomere length was 13 percent longer in the active group than in the sedentary group.
When the researchers put together the data from all 57 test subjects, they arrived at the graph shown above: the higher the test person's VO2max, the longer their telomeres were.
VO2max increases if you do endurance sports, but it does so even more with interval training. Even circuit training raises the VO2max, but only by a modest amount. Although the researchers studied endurance athletes, their findings probably apply just as much to gym rats that are not afraid to do a bit of cardio – and to other athletes with a good sprint capacity.
What mechanism is involved the researchers have no idea. Nevertheless they are positive about their findings. "Telomere length is preserved with age in endurance exercise-trained humans and is related to maximal aerobic exercise capacity among healthy older adults", they write. "This may represent a novel molecular mechanism linking vigorous habitual exercise/aerobic fitness to reduced cellular senescence and preserved physiological function with aging."
Mech Ageing Dev. 2010 Feb;131(2):165-7.
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