Whether we’re facing pressure from job demands, paying the bills or caring for a terminally ill person, chronic stress can take a toll on physical health.
In this study, researchers have proven that exercise can successfully relieve stress factors and ultimately, prevent cell damage and aging.
What this means is that exercise can prolong your lifespan, keeping you younger and healthier for longer.
The study was conducted on 63 healthy women and they were classified into 2 groups – sedentary (those who did not exercise) and active (those who engaged in exercise). Participants recorded a schedule of their activities and were assessed on a Perceived Stress Scale (Cohen et al., 1983)
Blood was drawn from the participants and telomeres analysis was conducted by a quantitative polymerase chain reaction method.
Telomeres are DNA protein complexes that cap the end of chromosomes. Telomeres are essential for cell division and are not fully replicated. If not countered by telomere elongation, telomeres may shorten. When the length of the telomeres become too short, cell division does not take place.
Short telomeres in white blood cells are related to a host of diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and early mortality.
The study found that if the participants took part in at least 42 minutes of physical activity a week, perceived stress was totally unrelated to telomere lengths. Exercise is a huge buffer from the effects of stress.
For those who lead sedentary lifestyles, high levels of perceived stress was very much associated with shorter telomere length.
Physical activity can protect individuals from chronic stress through autonomic neuroendocrine and cognitive pathways. People who are highly stress tend to ruminate and it is associated with cortisol (stress hormone) activity. Exercise leads to decreased ruminations, thus reducing the neuroendocrine and autonomic activities.
Article Source: The Power of Exercise: Buffering the Effect of Chronic Stress on Telomere Length
Puterman E, Lin J, Blackburn E, O’Donovan A, Adler N, et al. (2010) The Power of Exercise: Buffering the Effect of Chronic Stress on Telomere Length. PLOS ONE 5(5): e10837. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0010837
Cohen S, Kamarck T, Mermelstein R (1983) A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of health and social behavior 24(4): 385–396.
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