Telomere length is an important biomarker of aging because it decreases over time. This randomized controlled trial assigned healthy older women to participate in an exercise intervention group or a control group for 6 months. At 6 months after the intervention ended, telomere length was increased in the exercise group and reduced in the control group.
Telomeres are cellular structures composed of tandem DNA repeats located at the end of chromosomes. Their main function is to protect the chromosomes from degradation during each cell cycle, and telomerase is the enzyme responsible for maintaining telomere length.
Telomeres are important biomarkers of the aging process, as telomere length decreases by approximately 71–72 base pairs per year. Telomere shortening can be accelerated by factors that induce oxidative stress, such as smoking, whereas exercise can reduce telomere shortening. The aging process is also associated with adverse cognitive changes, which may be mitigated by exercise.
In this 6-month randomized controlled trial, 74 healthy older women (average age of 72) were assigned to a group who received an exercise intervention consisting of 3 sessions per week, which included 10 minutes of jogging and full-body resistance exercise each session, or to a control group.
Telomere length was measured using saliva samples collected at the end of the 6-month exercise intervention and again at 6 months after the end of the intervention. Cognitive function was measured at baseline and at the end of the intervention by the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) for global cognitive function, the Stroop test for attentional and executive functions, and the Trail Making test for processing speed.
Compared to the control group, there was an increase in telomere length in the intervention group at 6 months postintervention. Global cognitive function also improved in the intervention group compared to the control group. Compared to baseline, attentional and executive functions and processing speed improved in the intervention group.
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