Distance running can halt the ageing process in some individuals by as much as 16 years, according to research from Federation University Australia.
The research, conducted by PhD student Joshua Denham and led by Professor Fadi Charchar of the School of Health Sciences, was based on the impact of distance running on telomeres in the human body.
“Within our cells telomeres are structures that work similar to the plastic parts or aglets of our shoelaces – that is, they protect our genes from fraying,” Dr Charchar said.
“Telomeres unfortunately get shorter with age. The shorter they are the more prone to disease we are. The trick is that we can actually do things to make our telomeres last longer.
“We found that doing running – and lots of running – can do wonders for telomeres.”
The research found that ultra-marathon runners running 40 to 100 km a week had 11 per cent longer telomeres.
This 11 per cent differences adds 16 years to your life expectancy.
“Patients with a variety of chronic diseases exhibit shorter telomeres when compared to healthy individuals,” Dr Charchar said.
“The ultra-marathoners from our study had an average age of 43. According to our results, their biological age would be 27.
“But there are many questions left answered in regards to exercise and the effect on telomere length,” Dr Charchar said. “For example, is there a minimum amount of exercise that confers ideal telomere length maintenance? Is there a threshold at which point exercise does not benefit telomere length maintenance? Is the benefit exercise has to telomeres intensity dependent? How are the telomeres being maintained? “
The research has been published in PLOS one, the scientific research journal.
“Studies by PhD student Joshua Denham are also investigating the effect of a form of aerobic exercise called high intensity interval training on the way our genes respond to disease,” Dr Charchar said. “This is a fascinating area called epigenetics. We have data that shows that the form and amount of exercise has a crucial impact on your genes that affects your health and this change maybe passed on to your children.”
This research will be presented by Joshua as late breaking research at the Australian Society for Medical Research National Conference.
A review of this area was recently published in the top sports science journal Sports Medicine.
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Matthew Freeman, Media Officer Federation University Australia, firstname.lastname@example.org
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