Ageing Gracefully – can exercise keep you looking younger when you are getting older?

One of the many advantages of our modern world is that almost everything we need and desire can be done whilst seated with the aid of our phones or in front of computers. Not only are we becoming more and more inclined to sit down for work or leisure, but as we age, we are also inclined to slow down and become less active in general. It’s a natural part of ageing, right? Well with all this sitting and low activity as we age, what are the potential health impacts and does it really matter how long and how hard we workout for when we get to those golden years?

Well a recent study conducted by the University of California – San Diego set out to answer just that. The study, published in 2017 in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found that elderly women with less than 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day and who remain sedentary for more than 10 hours per day have shorter telomeres. These telomeres are tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands, much like the plastic tips of shoelaces, that protect chromosomes from deterioration and progressively shorten with age.

Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, and lead author of the study with the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine advised the study found that cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle and chronological age doesn't always match biological age. He found that elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells that are biologically older by eight years compared to women who are less sedentary.

Some 1,500 women aged 64-95 years participated in the study were part of the larger Women's Health Initiative (HI), a national UK longitudinal study investigating the determinants of chronic diseases in postmenopausal women. The participants completed questionnaires and wore an accelerometer on their right hip for seven consecutive days during waking and sleeping hours to track their movements.

So, if it only takes 30-40 mins of moderate exercise per day to keep you biologically younger, why do we keep sitting around so much and only factoring in exercise a few times a week. I wouldn’t mind looking 8 years younger. Sounds like a cheaper and more effective option than cosmetic surgery for me.

Take home message - keep moving ladies, every step counts towards looking younger and who doesn’t want to look more like 70 when they are 80.

With love


Aladdin H. Shadyab et al. Associations of Accelerometer-Measured and Self-Reported Sedentary Time With Leukocyte Telomere Length in Older Women. American Journal of Epidemiology, January 2017 DOI: 10.1093/aje/kww196