Study links inactivity with genetic erosion

Related Story

COLUMBIA- A recent study from researchers at the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University show sedentary lifestyles negatively impacted the genetics of elderly women.

Almost 1,500 women ages 64 to 95 took part in the study.  Their activity level was recorded, and the lengths of the caps of their DNA were measured.  These caps, called telomeres, prevent DNA from deteriorating.  

The researchers found the DNA of women who lived sedentary lifestyles were aged 8 years older than their counterparts.  They also found the women were more prone to be obese, have a history of chronic illnesses and suffer from high blood pressure. 

"Telomeres are what keep your DNA young," Dr. John Mruzik, a clinic doctor of the Boone Medical Group, said.

"[When telomeres are shortened] you start thinking about mal-functioning cells, cancer, aging."

Mruzik explained that lack of exercise along with the usual culprits of poor eating, excessive drinking and smoking are responsible for telomere shortening.  He said exercise gets rid of damaged cells and improves almost all human functions.

"It can be anything through stretching, even some functional chores," Tori Sisson, Director of Therapy Operations at Rusk Rehabilitation Center said. 

Sisson said over 50% of the patients the Rusk Rehabilitation Center sees are over 65.  A large number of them are sedentary due to falls or other preventable accidents.

"People in the community who exercise for just 30 minutes a day can really decrease their risk of being sedentary," Sisson said. "Thirty minutes a day isn't too much, something I think almost everyone can work on."

Sisson explained Rusk Rehabilitation uses a variety of methods from practicing getting dressed to getting into cars to get their sedentary patients back on their feet.  She highlighted group workout sessions are sometimes the best method, but stressed patients should consult physicians before working out.

Mruzik cited experimental medicines and procedures available to artificially lengthen telomeres, but they have yet to be peer-reviewed.