Posted on Jan 04, 2013, 6 a.m.
Older athletes who engage in endurance training have longer telomere length, and maximal oxygen consumption positively associates with telomere length.
Telomeres are the end caps of chromosomes, protecting the DNA complexes from deterioration during cell division. Telomere shortening is considered a marker of cellular aging, and prematurely shortened telomeres have been linked to increased risk of cancers, heart disease, dementia and death. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (Norway) report that endurance training may protect against the effects of aging in older individuals. Javaid Nauman and colleagues recruited 20 men, half of whom were ages 22 to 27 and the other half ages 66 to 77. In each age group, half of the participants were endurance athletes who were taking part in a cross-country ski race or track competitions. The others were nonathletes who were active, but who had never competed at higher levels in any sports. All of the participants were free from known cardiovascular disease, obesity, and a history of current or past smoking. None was taking regular medications. The team observed that in the older age group, the endurance athletes had significantly longer telomeres. Further, in the overall cohort, telomere length was positively associated with VO2max, with the relationship strongest among the endurance athletes. The study authors write that: “Our data suggest that VO2max is positively associated with telomere length, and we found that long-term endurance exercise training may provide a protective effect on muscle telomere length in older people.”
Ida Beate O. Osthus, Antonella Sgura, Francesco Berardinelli, Ingvild Vatten Alsnes, Eivind Bronstad, Tommy Rehn, Javaid Nauman, et al. “Telomere Length and Long-Term Endurance Exercise: Does Exercise Training Affect Biological Age? A Pilot Study,” PLoS One, 26 Dec 2012.