But the more I immerse myself in this fitness stuff, the more I see how a regular exercise regimen can peel away the years. An hour at the gym just leaves me feeling more youthful — my heart’s pumping, my muscles are aching, my lungs are burning.
I always come away feeling more energetic than when I started.
There’s a reason for that, according to a new study by researchers at King’s College in London: Regular exercise actually affects your DNA. Staying active can actually slow down the aging process.
Researchers studied 2,401 twins and found that those who were physically active “appeared biologically younger than their sedentary peers,” the BBC reported. They measured the effect by looking at pieces of DNA called telomeres. These repeat sequences of DNA sit at the end of chromosomes and protect them from damage. As we age, these telomeres become shorter, leaving cells more vulnerable to damage. In sedentary people, those telomeres shortened more rapidly than in their active counterparts.
Indeed, the most active people in the study — those who exercised at least 199 minutes a week — displayed telomeres that were comparable to those in folks who were 10 years younger.
I’m still not going to obsess about my age, but I have to admit that this is good news to a geezer who’s spending at least a couple of hours a week at the gym and racking up the miles on my walking commute. I don’t know if I’m going to be 10 years younger as a result of all this, but as long as I’m feeling great, who’s counting?