Older people who spend most of their days sitting down are likely to age faster, according to a new study.
Researchers found that elderly women who sit for over 10 hours a day and do less than 40 minutes of moderate exercise are eight years “biologically older”.
As cells age, tiny caps on the ends of DNA strands known as telomeres shrink, exposing the underlying chromosome to deterioration.
But some health and lifestyle factors accelerate the process, putting people at greater risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers.
“Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” said UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, lead author of the study.
But the study, which researchers claim is the first to objectively measure how a sedentary lifestyle impacts the ageing biomarker, wasn’t all doom and gloom.
“We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline,” said Shadyab. “Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old.”
Nearly 1,500 women, aged 64-95, took part in the study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The researchers are now planning future studies to examine the impact of exercise on telomere length in young populations and in men.