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Despite our best efforts, our cells are ageing rapidly. A recent study pointed the finger at the time we sit inactive. Sorry.
Put down your kale smoothies and take off the active wear; our cells are ageing, and they’re ageing fast.
It doesn’t matter how many calories (or is it kilojoules?) you burn, how Bikram your yoga is, or how cross your fitness may be – every seat you take is doing you damage.
Their report shows that elderly women who sit for more than ten hours a day, with low physical activity, have cells that are, biologically speaking, eight years older than those of their more active peers.
As your cells grow older, you become higher at risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and major cancers.
The study appeared in the American Journal of Epidemiology, showing that elderly women who had less than 40 minutes of physical activity a day had physically different DNA to their active counterparts.
Nearly 1,500 women participated, with ages ranging from 64 to 95. The participants completed questionnaires and wore an accelerometer on their right hip during waking and sleeping hours for seven consecutive days.
Participants are part of the Women’s Health Initiative, a US national study investigating the determinants of chronic diseases in post-menopausal women.
The women’s telomeres – the tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands that serve to protect chromosomes from deterioration, which get progressively shorter with age – were shorter by comparison.
You may be wondering what these findings mean for you. Like a newly churned out Hollywood thriller, we’ll have to wait for the sequel to know. Future studies are set to examine how exercise relates to DNA length in younger populations, and on the male side of the equation.
Unfortunately, there is no anti-ageing fix-all cream hitting store shelves soon, nor a new fad-ready fitness craze that can undo this shortening, our chromosomes irreversibly damaged.
It’s just how the saying goes: a moment on the couch, a lifetime on the deoxyribonucleic acid.
Our self-serving laziness is doing our cells so much damage that the advanced ageing is comparable to the effects of obesity and smoking.
“Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” said Aladdin Shadyab, PhD and lead author of the study with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the School.
“Women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day – the national recommended guideline.”
That’s right, the dreaded exercise is the cure here again. Although, what’s an extra eight cellular years if you’re spending those eight years running up a sweat anyway?
“Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old.”
If you’re not exactly an elderly woman, you may be wondering what exactly these findings may mean for you, and your no doubt indulgently lazy habits.
The answers are, at this time, unclear. Like a newly churned out Hollywood thriller, we’ll have to wait for the sequel to know what’s really going on.
Future studies are set to examine how exercise relates to DNA length in younger populations, and on the male side of the equation.
In the meantime, we advise adjusting to an entirely vertical lifestyle to ensure proper gene care. Alternatively, you could exercise, but that is a much more difficult task by comparison.