Sunday, February 3, 2008

May your DNA stay nice and long...

In the month of January there were several studies published linking exercise to slower aging.

The BBC (link to story), reports a study that shows that physically active people can be 10 years 'biologically' younger than their sedentary counterparts. How did they know?

One of the reasons why we age is that our DNA gets shorter at the ends. Each cell in our body has a copy of our DNA (which contains our genes). You can think of your DNA as a long, long, long book with letters in it. This book determines to a large extent your appearance, health, and even personality traits. As time goes by, some letters at the beginning and the end of the book drop, so we age.

Well, inactive people seem to drop more letters than active people. This has been actually measured, and it therefore provides hard-evidence of what up to now has been mostly anecdotal evidence (active people do look younger!).

A second story, also reported by the BBC (link to story), talks about a second study that shows that small changes in your lifestyle can add several high quality years to your life. These changes need not be extreme. Simple things like walking half an hour every day, eating fruits and vegetables, drinking with moderation, and not smoking make a difference.

And lastly, the New York Times has an article about aging and performance (link to story). It turns out that as we age, if we stay active, we don't slow down as much as it is commonly believed. More over, even if you start being active later in life, you can make huge leaps. The article gives examples of people who started running in their 60s, and then ran their first marathon. An interesting idea proposed in this report is that one of the reasons why we slow down as we age is lower motivation, not physical decline. Again, that mind-body connection plays a role, something that I deeply believe in (which I am sure you have gathered after reading a few of my blogs).

One of my dreams is to one day be a running granny, with bright yellow shoes, plenty of DNA in my body, and cheering grandkids at the finish line. Maybe I'll be able to beat Eric then (we have a bet going).


Brianna K. Grant said...

Thanks for the great info with actual links to the articles. You'll make a great role model for those future grandkids . . . :) They'll cheer for you, too, I'm sure! Happy running!

iliana said...

Happy to share information!
I'll check out your book too (in Spanish)...