What Story Do Your Telomeres Tell?
Do your telomeres tell a story about your health? Hopefully, it’s a very long one. That’s because these cellular structures have been linked to longevity. In essence, the longer your telomeres, the longer you’re likely to live.
Telomeres are structures that cap the ends of DNA in our chromosomes. Chromosomes are contained within virtually every cell in the body, in the nucleus. Every time one of your body’s cells divides, telomeres act like the bit of plastic on the end of your shoelaces; they prevent the carefully braided fabric of the laces (your DNA) from fraying and/or unraveling.
Once viewed as relatively inconsequential, we now know that these humble structures are actually key indicators of cellular health and lifespan. To put it simply; longer telomeres are better. Shorter telomeres are linked to advancing age, disease, and decline. Some behaviors help lengthen telomeres, while others seem to accelerate their demise.
Yesterday I reported that something as simple as drinking sugared soft drinks regularly can significantly speed up the aging process by shortening your telomeres. Today, I thought I’d relate some behaviors that may actually help lengthen your telomeres.
You may not like it though. It’s almost too simple. Ready? Here goes: Get up. And. Move.
That’s it. Move. Or, to be more precise: Stop sitting. In fact, that’s how researchers put it in the prestigious British Medical Journal last year. "In many countries formal exercise may be increasing, but at the same time people spend more time sitting," researchers wrote. "There is growing concern that not only low physical activity...but probably also sitting and sedentary behaviour is an important and new health hazard of our time.”
Notice they didn’t say it’s important to get additional exercise, although that is certainly a beneficial behavior. No, they specifically pointed to sitting itself as a toxic behavior, which may be shortening people’s telomeres. "We hypothesise that a reduction in sitting hours is of greater importance than an increase in exercise time for elderly risk individuals.”
BMJ-British Medical Journal. "Curb sitting time to protect aging DNA, possibly extend lifespan." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2014. .