Researchers explain why regular exercise can lengthen your life and—oddly enough—it has a lot to do with length, the length of your chromosomes that is. More from Jack Kelly, of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
The British researchers studied 2,400 twins. Their research focused on telomeres, the caps at the end of chromosomes, the structures that carry genes.Telomeres, interesting—let’s find out more about them. I ran telomeres through Wikipedia. Here’s some of what came up. Take a look:
When we're young, our telomeres are long. But every time a cell divides, telomeres get shorter. When telomeres get too short, the cell can no longer divide. Cells die. Muscles weaken, skin wrinkles, eyesight and hearing fade.
Prof. Tim Spector and Dr. Lynn Cherkas of Kings College, and Prof. Abraham Aviv of the New Jersey Medical School found the telomeres in those who exercised vigorously were significantly longer than those in their twins who didn't. The difference was still significant even if the twin who exercised smoked or was overweight.
"These data suggest that the act of exercising may actually protect the body against the aging process," said Mr. Spector, who is a professor of genetic epidemiology. The study was published last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
During cell division, the enzymes that duplicate the chromosome and its DNA can't continue their duplication all the way to the end of the chromosome. If cells divided without telomeres, they would lose the end of their chromosomes, and the necessary information it contains. (In 1972, James Watson named this phenomenon the "end replication problem.") The telomere is a disposable buffer, which is consumed during cell division and is replenished by an enzyme…Riveting, so, how long are your telomeres? I figure with the amount I exercise, I should have telomeres from here to Staten Island!
…If telomeres become too short, they will potentially unfold from their presumed closed structure. It is thought that the cell detects this uncapping as DNA damage and will enter cellular senescence, growth arrest or apoptosis depending on the cell's genetic background (p53 status). Uncapped telomeres also result in chromosomal fusions. Since this damage cannot be repaired in normal somatic cells, the cell may even go into apoptosis. Many aging-related diseases are linked to shortened telomeres. Organs deteriorate as more and more of their cells die off or enter cellular senescence.