We need to start with a bit of science. Specifically, we need to tell you about telomeres: caps at the ends of our chromosomes which prevent them from fraying as our cells replicate. As a cell ages, its telomeres become shorter; when they fall below a certain length, the cell can no longer divide and it dies. It’s this cell loss that causes ageing in the body.
However, the ageing of our cells doesn’t always match our chronological ageing, and that’s because – in addition to normal ageing – telomeres can be worn down through an unhealthy lifestyle. Stress, for example, is high on the list of factors that can prematurely shorten telomere length.
Conversely, it’s also been found that telomerase – an enzyme stimulated by healthy lifestyle changes such as regular exercise – can protect telomeres from shortening. It may even lengthen them, effectively reversing the ageing process.
Indeed, researchers from Brigham Young University found that people who regularly took part in intense exercise had longer telomeres, reducing ageing at the cellular level by up to nine years.