(NaturalNews) According to a new study, funded by The German Research Association and the University of Saarland, and published in "Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association," intense exercise acts to help prevent the shortening of telomeres. The gradual shortening of telomeres through cell divisions leads to aging at the cellular level. The study findings were released online Nov. 30, 2009 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of "Circulation". It follows up on the work done by Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider, and Jack W. Szostak, who won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine for their work in showing how during cell division, telomere length is shortened.
Telomeres are the protective ends of chromosomes. They have been compared to sort of a plastic tip found at the end of a shoelace that over time becomes worn and frayed with every cell division. When the telomeres become critically short, the cell undergoes death. Short telomeres limit the number of cell divisions.
In this clinical study, blood samples were taken from two groups of professional athletes and two groups who were healthy nonsmokers but not regular exercisers. Professional runners from the German National Team of Track and Field were evaluated against nonsmokers who were healthy but did not work out regularly.
The athletes in this study showed significantly longer telomere length versus the non-exercise group.
According to Ulrich Laufs, M.D., the study`s lead author and professor of clinical and experimental medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine at Saarland University in Homburg, Germany, "The most significant finding of this study is that physical exercise of the professional athletes leads to activation of the important enzyme telomerase and stabilizes the telomere. Furthermore, he concluded, "This is direct evidence of an anti-aging effect of physical exercise. Physical exercise could prevent the aging of the cardiovascular system, reflecting this molecular principle." Laufs went on to say, "Our data improves the molecular understanding of the protective effects of exercise on the vessel wall and underlines the potency of physical training in reducing the impact of age-related disease."
So, how much exercise is needed to prevent telomere shortening? Must one be a marathon runner, or is the standard advice of walking for at least 30 minutes, most days of the week enough?
According to Dr. Annabelle Volgman, a Cardiologist and Director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, "Not everyone has the makeup to be an elite athlete. The safest thing to say is that people do need that aerobic exercise. But there are so many factors that impact aging."
Because no one really knows the answer, Volgman said, the best advice is to do some sort of exercise regularly. Previous research has shown even moderate activity can be beneficial to the telomeres.
Exercise intensity should be guided by fitness level and age. In other words, if you`re used to doing vigorous exercise, keep it up. If not, do what you can without overdoing it.
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