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Telomeres are complexes composed of protein and DNA that cap the ends of the chromosomes in our body's cells. Because telomeres shorten as we age, they have become a cellular marker of biological age. Additionally, short telomere length has been linked to a number of chronic diseases and possibly early death. Interestingly, telomere length appears to be modified by a variety of factors including diet, body size and stress. A number of studies have reported that greater amounts of perceived stress are associated with shorter telomere length. However, few studies have evaluated the ability of stress-reducing interventions to protect telomeres.
In a new anti-aging research study (free to read online), investigators examined the effect of exercise on stress and telomere length. Previous research has suggested that stress has a negative impact on human health and that this might be due to a link between chronic stress and telemore length. Other studies have shown a positive link between exercise and longer telomere length. This new study was conducted to more clearly define the possible relationships between stress, exercise, and telomere length.
For this new anti-aging study, investigators divided 63 postmenopausal with different stress levels into either Sedentary or Active groups based on their level of physical activity. The women classified as Active met the CDC-recommended amount of daily activity. The odds of the study subjects having long or short telomeres were calculated based on their amount of exercise and their perceived stress level. The study investigators reported that: