Women in the United States, and in many places around the world, spend a whole lot of time, money and effort attempting to defy the aging process. Many men are on this bandwagon as well. This is why ads for creams, potions and fad cleanses fill our screens — a lot of people are obviously buying.
However, despite attempts to look and feel younger, many people may be accelerating the aging of their cells… simply by sitting down for too long.
A study was performed by researchers at the University of California, San Diego and published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It linked long periods of sitting and a sedentary lifestyle to faster cell aging in elderly women. As Aladdin Shadyab, the lead author of the study, explains:
“Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age.”
How a sedentary lifestyle leads to faster aging
For their study, researchers analyzed the cells of just under 1,500 women between the ages of 64 and 95. The women involved in the study wore an accelerometer for seven days, day and night, to track their levels of physical activity. They also filled out questionnaires to self-report certain aspects of their lifestyle. Results of the analysis revealed that the women who were sedentary for over 10 hours of the day, and who engaged in less than 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day, had shorter telomeres on their DNA.
As to the function and significance of telomeres, the study authors delineate:
“Telomeres are repetitive DNA-protein structures located at the ends of chromosomes that protect and maintain chromosomal stability and integrity. Telomeres progressively shorten with age, leading to cellular senescence [certain cells no longer dividing] and apoptosis [cell death]. Shortened leukocyte telomere length (LTL) has been associated with cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and major cancers.”
Your lifestyle can make telomeres shorten faster
While the shortening of telomeres with age is natural, factors including those related to health and lifestyle can make them shorten faster. This study found that sedentary behavior shortened elderly women’s telomeres significantly. This made their cells biologically eight years older than the cells of elderly women who led more active lifestyles.
The researchers also found that elderly women who remained active did not experience this accelerated cell aging. On this finding, Shadyab states:
“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. Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young. Physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old.”
It is clear that if you want to stay as young as possible, for as long as possible, it’s vitally important to get your body moving.
Other dangers of sitting — for all age groups
Shorter telomere length isn’t the only danger of sitting for too long. Just a few other potential risks include:
- Increased anxiety
- Lower academic performance
- Back pain and possible spinal disc degeneration
- Joint pain
- Weight gain
- Chronic inflammation
- Poor circulation, possibly resulting in blood clots
- Wear and tear on bones
Ways to stay active
There are so many ways to get out and get moving, it’s difficult to begin listing them! If you are in good health, pick your favorite form of movement and go with it — be it playing sports, hiking, dancing or just walking around your community. Make it a point to do something active every day. Choosing something you love will make it feel less like work and more like the fun that it is!
If you have a health condition, or you’re an elderly person, talk to your doctor about activities that are safe and beneficial for your individual health. Some great examples of lower-intensity activities are swimming, yoga, tai chi and walking. Whatever your age, and whatever your state of health, there is some form of movement you can do. Find your perfect fit and get moving today!
— Tanya Mead