Is Cellular Age Related to Fitness?

(DGIwire) — Fitness-minded individuals—and the personal trainers they work with—know there is a close relationship between age and physical performance. Being able to track how the body is aging is important for those who are interested in maximizing their lifespan. These days, a Nobel Prize-winning discovery is helping to provide new clues to estimate the body’s cellular age—which can lead to a deeper understanding of the vitality of cells.

This science concerns “telomeres,” or repetitive stretches of DNA, located at the ends of chromosomes, that help ensure our DNA is accurately copied. The loss of telomeres, which happens every time our cells divide, acts as an aging clock for the lifetime of the cell. In 2009, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded for research that broadened our understanding of telomeres.

“In recent years, mountains of published, peer-reviewed research have detailed the relationship between the length of our telomeres and our cellular health,” says Jason Shelton, CEO of Telomere Diagnostics, a molecular testing company founded in 2010. “The longer our telomeres, the ‘younger’ we may actually be on a cellular level. Factors linked to telomere length include nutrition, stress, exercise and sleep.”

For example, a recent published study in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports Exercise found a direct link between moderate exercise rates and telomere length. A separate study, published in the journal Preventative Medicine, found that regular physical activity was linked to significantly longer telomeres and accounted for nine years’ less biological aging compared to sedentary individuals. And an article in PLOS ONE suggested vigorous activity buffers the negative effects of high stress on telomere length.

Telomere Diagnostics recently launched TeloYears, a simple measurement of the cellular age encoded in the test-taker’s DNA.

The TeloYears evaluation begins when a test-taker mails his or her blood sample—collected via a custom kit produced by the company—to Telomere Diagnostics’ laboratory in Silicon Valley, California. There, the telomeres in the white blood cells are analyzed. The evaluation conducted by the laboratory is summarized in a report, mailed to the test-taker, that displays the average telomere length and how it compares (as a percentile) to others of their same age and gender. From there, test takers can consult with a medical professional about the results.

“We believe the TeloYears test—backed by solid, published scientific research—can be another resource for fitness-minded individuals to keep tabs on the body’s cellular age and health,” adds Shelton.

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