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Brief Exercise Reduces Impact of Stress on Cell Aging, UCSF Study Shows
Date:5/26/2010

Exercise can buffer the effects of stress-induced cell aging, according to new research from UCSF that revealed actual benefits of physical activity at the cellular level.

(Vocus) May 26, 2010 -- Exercise can buffer the effects of stress-induced cell aging, according to new research from UCSF that revealed actual benefits of physical activity at the cellular level.

The scientists learned that vigorous physical activity as brief as 42 minutes over a 3-day period, similar to federally recommended levels, can protect individuals from the effects of stress by reducing its impact on telomere length. Telomeres (pronounced TEEL-oh-meres) are tiny pieces of DNA that promote genetic stability and act as protective sheaths by keeping chromosomes from unraveling, much like plastic tips at the ends of shoelaces.

A growing body of research suggests that short telomeres are linked to a range of health problems, including coronary heart disease and diabetes, as well as early death.

“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, PhD, who is one of the lead investigators and an associate professor in the UCSF Department of Psychiatry. “Even a moderate amount of vigorous exercise appears to provide a critical amount of protection for the telomeres.”

The findings build on previous UCSF research documenting that chronic psychological stress takes a significant toll on the human body by impacting the length of telomeres in immune cells. While the exact mechanisms have remained elusive, a UCSF-led research study in 2004 (PNAS, Dec. 7, 2004; 101 (49) found that the ramifications of stress stretch deep into our cells, affecting telomeres, which are believed to play a key role in cellular aging, and possibly dise
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