Increasing your lifespan depends on multiple factors, such as genetics and lifestyle. To do all that you can in your power to live longer, which daily activity needs to be limited?
According to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, longevity is linked to moving around.
The research found that a sedentary lifestyle, such as sitting down for extended periods of time, could shorten somebody’s life.
And it’s not for the reason you’re most likely thinking of – it’s to do with telomeres.
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What are telomeres?
Your Genome – a website home to leading international scientists in the field of genomics – explains what telomeres are.
The researchers, from the EMBL European Bioinformatics Institute, said: “Telomeres are distinctive structures found at the ends of our chromosomes [DNA].
“They consist of the same short DNA sequence repeated over and over again.”
Your Genome verifies that “there are several indications that telomere length is a good predictor of lifespan”, and telomeres serve three major functions within the body.
Firstly, “they help to organise each of our 46 chromosomes in the nucleus (control centre) of our cells”.
Secondly: “They protect the ends of our chromosomes by forming a cap, much like the plastic tip on shoelaces.
“If the telomeres were not there, our chromosomes may end up sticking to other chromosomes.”
And, thirdly, “they allow the chromosome to be replicated properly during cell division”.
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The study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine focused on the second main function of telomeres.
Researchers analysed the lengths of chromosomal telomeres in the blood cells of 49 predominantly sedentary and overweight people in their late 60s.
The lengths of the telomeres were measured on two separate occasions, six months apart.
Participants were given a pedometer to record the number of footsteps taken everyday.
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The amount of time spent sitting down each day was also gleaned through a validated questionnaire.
Interestingly, the number of daily steps taken wasn’t associated with changes in telomere length.
However, a reduction in the amount of time spent sitting down was significantly associated with telomere lengthening in blood cells.
The researchers commented: “Sitting is an important health hazard of our time.”
So, to help telomeres from shortening at a rapid rate, it seems people may need to get off their bottoms.
This data suggests that some working while standing up, instead of sitting down for example, could help you live longer.
As the study is small, it will need to be repeated in other larger groups.
The researchers concluded: “We hypothesise that a reduction in sitting hours is of greater importance than an increase in exercise time for elderly risk individuals.”
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