Hitting the gym may help reverse stress-related aging

Past research has shown that chronic stress has the physiological effect of shortening telomeres, which are small pieces of DNA that protect chromosomes from degrading.

Now, a team of researchers at the University of California has discovered that even moderate amounts of physical exercise may protect these important pieces of DNA.

“Telomere length is increasingly considered a biological marker of the accumulated wear and tear of living, integrating genetic influences, lifestyle behaviors and stress,” said Elissa Epel, Ph.D., study co-author.

The team tested their theories on a group of 62 post-menopausal women who were enduring the stress of caring for an ill loved one. They reported their physical activity and perceived stress at the end of each day, then researchers examined the immune cells in blood samples from the participants.

They found that while stress did degrade telomeres in the more sedentary women, the individuals who regularly stayed active retained the integrity of their DNA.

Results of this study suggest that workplace stress may be effectively reduced when a staff is motivated to get active. Employee wellness programs that encourage exercise may help aid employers in achieving a healthier workforce.

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