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Sit Less & Live Longer!

Too much sitting coupled with too little exercise might be speeding up the ageing process, says a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

This finding is specially pertinent to women, as the study conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine shows how elderly females (of ages 64 to 95) who are sedentary, spending hours on end per day in a sitting position, have cells that display an older biological age than those of women who are more active.

These women only engaged in physical activity of moderate to vigorous nature for less than 30 minutes daily while they would spend the better part of the day—over 10 hours—sitting. Why would they have ‘older’ cells? The answer might be lying in their DNA. The researchers found that the ends of their DNA strands known as telomeres are shorter than normal—this structure is known to providing protection to chromosomes against deterioration and shortening associated with age.

The natural process of ageing is marked by a shortening of telomeres which also become worn out—this process is, therefore, considered a biomarker for ageing. However, certain factors might speed up this process. Furthermore, other conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, might accelerate the degeneration. The new results add another to the list: a sedentary lifestyle.

“Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle. Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age,” says lead author Aladdin Shadyab.

On the other hand, women who sat for long periods of time, but who also exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, would not display shorter telomeres, points out Shadyab. He explains that we should, thus, not give up exercising as we grow older and older.

“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,” says Shadyab.

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