A few workouts per week eliminate the life-shortening effect of stress
Serious and chronic psychological stress shortens the lifespan. If you live with stress that you can not avoid, then sports scientists at the University of British Columbia have good news for you. According to their research, a few workouts per week drastically reduce - and perhaps even completely eliminate - the life-shortening effect of stress.
The researchers experimented with 68 adults who took care for a family member with dementia. They had in common that they didn't exercise on a regular basis and reported high stress.
The researchers divided the subjects into 2 groups. One group did nothing for 24 weeks. This was the control group. The other group, the experimental group, exercised 40 minutes 3-5 times a week. During the 24 weeks, about 80 percent of the subjects were physically active for at least 120 minutes per week.
Before and after the 24 weeks, the researchers measured the telomere length in the DNA of the subjects' blood cells. Telomeres are a kind of biological clock. They become shorter as you grow older. The faster the telomeres become shorter, the faster you age.
The telomere length increased in the experimental group, while in the control group the length remained constant. The researchers do not exactly understand the mechanism. In other studies an extension of the telomere length is caused by an increase in the activity of the enzyme telomerase, but in this experiment the activity of telomerase didn't change.
"The current study suggests that exercise may slow or even reverse telomeric aging in a high stress group", write the researchers. "Being a sedentary caregiver compounds risk, and it is possible that exercise for caregivers is even more beneficial than exercise for the general population. It is also possible, however, that with a shift from sedentary to regularly active, a healthy sedentary population may also show telomere lengthening."
"Our results provide evidence to support the need for and feasibility of larger studies among sedentary and at-risk populations, such as healthcare professionals at risk of burnout and obese individuals who present with elevated levels of perceived psychological stress and an accelerated rate of telomere shortening compared to age-match controls across all age ranges."
"In light of the apparent telomere effects and changes in traditional health markers, these findings should promote optimism and inspire policy makers to support effective strategies for wider community based initiatives to increase physical exercise in at-risk adults."
Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018 Aug 2. pii: S0306-4530(18)30773-X. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.08.002. [Epub ahead of print].
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