Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Exercise, Aging & Telomeres

Telomeres are nucleoprotein caps at the ends of chromosomes.  Aging causes gradual cell degradation and the shortening of telomeres.  Chronic stress can prematurely shorten our telomeres.  When telomeres get too short, cells can no longer divide leaving us vulnerable to disease.  Telomere length is also regarded as a marker for biological age.

Researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and telomere length.  DNA data from 5,823 American adult participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey were compared across four groups: High Activity, Moderate Activity, Low Activity, and Sedentary.  The telomeres were measured in all four groups.  The longer telomeres discovered in active adults revealed reduced cell aging.  The High Activity Group had a biological aging advantage, showing their cells were:

  • 9 years younger than the Sedentary Group;
  • 8.8 years younger than the Low Activity Group; and
  • 7.1 years younger than the Moderate Activity Group.

Takeaway:  High levels of physical activity help to maintain telomere length and cell longevity.


Larry A. Tucker, Physical Activity and Telomere Length in U.S. Men and Women: An NHANES Investigation, 100 Preventative Medicine 145-151, July 2017,

University of California San Francisco, The Mysteries of the Super-Ager Revealed, Neuroscience News, Jan. 4, 2019,

%d bloggers like this: