Running Slows Down Aging, Slows Down the Clock

 

New research indicates that running slows down aging by beefing up protection of our DNA, which degenerates over time, causing many of the body’s aging signs. This is because as we age, telomeres, part of DNA that acts like caps on shoelaces, start to diminish and expose our DNA to change and damage. If you are not familiar with what telomeres are, there is an article about it right below:

Related: Aging Process Is Similar to Replicating CDs: Story of Telomeres

How Running Slows Down Aging

New research is finding that aerobic exercise, such as running, swimming and cycling has the ability to slow down the aging of the human body. The already well known benefits of running are improved cardiovascular function, strengthening of the heart, aid in forging healthy eating habits, as well as improvement in insulin control and having a clearer mind. These benefits already show how running slows down aging; by improving our body and mind overall.

Running shows positive signs at any age. But the real key here as to how running slows down the aging process lies in the protection of our DNA and cells:

Human cells divide at an average of 50-60 times in one lifespan. Every time they divide, the cell’s DNA has to be replicated. That way, a new chromosome can form and be used in the newly duplicated cell. However every time a cell duplicates, it comes at a cost. That is, the chromosomes get shorter and shorter. If they get short enough, the chromosomes can have their twining undone and our genetic data gets corrupted. Eventually, that cell dies. – Aging Process Is Similar to Replicating CDs

Related: What Is Autophagy and How It Slows Down Aging

This is why it is important to keep the telomeres, the shoelace caps for our DNA strands, intact as long as possible, and prevent wear and tear. One study found that sedentary people aged 55-72 had relatively short telomeres compared to sedentary 18-32 year olds. But when comparing people in the 55-72 age group who have exercised all their lives, there was no significant difference in the length of the telomeres between younger people and older athletes.2

Want to stay as healthy and spry as a teenager?  Go for a run.

 

Sources:

AGING – HOW RUNNING MAY BE ABLE TO STOP THE CLOCK

LaRocca TJ, Seals DR, Pierce GL. (2009). Leukocyte telomere length is preserved with aging in endurance-trained adults and related to maximal aerobic capacity. Mechanisms of aging and development 131(2):165-167

Aging Process Is Similar to Replicating CDs: Story of Telomeres

 

Why do we age? What is it that makes us age and grow saggy? How can we bring our youthful glow into adulthood and beyond? These are the questions that most women ask themselves. Joking, scientists and men alike ask the same questions. And you might find your answer in telomeres.

 

Brief Intro to Telomeres

 

Human cells divide at an average of 50-60 times in one lifespan. Every time they divide, the cell’s DNA has to be replicated. That way, a new chromosome can form and be used in the newly duplicated cell. However every time a cell duplicates, it comes at a cost. That is, the chromosomes get shorter and shorter. If they get short enough, the chromosomes can have their twining undone and our genetic data gets corrupted. Eventually, that cell dies.

Fortunately, chromosomes are like shoelaces with plastic caps. These plastic caps are what keep the shoelaces from getting undone. Chromosomes have their own plastic caps too. They are called telomeres. They are the extra DNA strands that a chromosome can afford to lose. They are what keep chromosomes from getting corrupt. So why are we not immortal? This is what an article from the University of Utah has to say about telomeres and division:

Yet, each time a cell divides, the telomeres get shorter. When they get too short, the cell no longer can divide and becomes inactive or “senescent” or dies. This process is associated with aging, cancer and a higher risk of death. So telomeres also have been compared with a bomb fuse.

 

They help to preserve genetic data when cells replicate in order to have fully functional healthy cells. RNA molecules are necessary in the process of copying DNA strands. Telomeres get shorter each time because these small RNA pieces need room on top of newly formed chromosomes.

Without telomeres, the ends of chromosomes would look like broken DNA, and the cell would try to fix something that wasn’t broken. That also would make them stop dividing and eventually die.

Telomerase, Cancer, and Aging

 

So is there something that keeps telomeres from disappearing? Actually there is an enzyme called telomerase. They fit on top of telomeres and are more prevalent in the younger years, however they also eventually disappear.

This is not the case for cancerous cells. Cancer cells activate the telomerase enzymes once the telomeres get dangerously short. This keeps the cancer cell’s DNA intact and allows them to multiply like mad dogs. In fact, measuring telomerase may be a new way to detect new cancer threats. If we learn how to stop telomerase from being activated, we may be able to make cancer cells experience aging just like healthy cells.

 In one experiment, researchers blocked telomerase activity in human breast and prostate cancer cells growing in the laboratory, prompting the tumor cells to die. But there are risks.

Shorter telomeres are related to shorter lives. Unfortunately, there is no strong evidence yet that shows that telomerase can make cells immortal and prevent aging. There is also no strong evidence that raising telomerase levels would also trigger cancerous cells to form.

Laboratory tests have shown though that telomerase was able to keep human cells divide far beyond the average limit without becoming cancerous. If researched further, we can have a future where human cells can be mass produced for transplantation, especially in key roles such as cells that produce insulin for diabetes patients.

Sources:

Genetic Science Learning Center. “Are Telomeres the Key to Aging and Cancer?.” Learn.Genetics 12 March 2013 http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/traits/telomeres/