How Exercise Affects Your DNA To Keep You Young

Did you know that exercise actually directly affects your DNA to make your cells younger?

This is the time of year where we make New Year’s resolutions surrounding healthy habits including exercise. If improved cardiovascular and immune health, better sleep, better mood, improved BMI and metabolism aren’t enough fuel to get you sticking to your exercise intentions, read on to learn how exercise actually makes you younger from the inside out.

Youth is something we desire to have from the time we realize our bodies are aging. Luckily, there is something that we can do to decelerate the aging process of our bodies. It is free, accessible, and can be fun and social (within your ‘bubble’ of course). Moderate intensity exercise has been proven to affect our genes by protecting the telomeres. According to the Australian Academy of Science, telomeres on our chromosomes are like the plastic caps at the end of shoelaces that stop them from unraveling. Protecting them helps to preserve the integrity of our genome. Telomeres also send messages to the cell-repairing mechanisms of our bodies when there is damage to the DNA. This may help in the prevention of duplication of cancer cells. Generally, the older the telomere, the older the cell. A study by Belgian researchers recently found that levels of a compound called Nuclear Respiratory Factor 1 (NRF1) are boosted with exercise, which protects telomeres from getting shorter. With each bout of exercise, the protection to the telomeres is refreshed, thus helping the cells remain functionally younger. The exercise-based changes to the DNA are like ‘tune-ups’, which help the cells work better and more efficiently.

Exercise also increases blood flow, which carries oxygen and nutrients to our cells – all of our cells.

The more oxygen and nutrition they get from the increase in blood flow, the healthier they remain. This means brain cells, muscle cells, nerve cells, and skin cells. Exercise allows us to not only look better, but to move better and to think better. ‘Motion is lotion’ meaning that the more you move, the easier it will be to maintain the amount of movement you have. Increasing postural strength as we age is extremely important, not only in terms of carrying ourselves taller and more erect, but for the optimal function of our muscles, breathing mechanisms, and internal organs. Even if you have not been exercising regularly, a little bit still benefits your body. Generally exercising a little is better than none and exercising more is better than less.

Did you know that gardening, housework, raking leaves, shovelling, dancing around your living room, ice skating, even just doing some repetitions of sitting-to-standing from your couch can count as exercise?

It doesn’t have to be done at a particular time, in a particular setting, with particular people. Any activity that increases your heart-rate and allows some perspiration can count as exercise. Experts would be seeking 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, or 150 minutes per week. Perhaps between episodes of shows on Netflix, you could do some sitting to standing followed by some skipping in place for 5 minutes. If you live in an apartment building or condo, consider going up and down the stairs in the stairwell for 10 minutes. Put on some headphones and listen to some great music while you are doing it. Take a brisk walk with a friend or while listening to a favourite podcast.

If you are thinking – sure, I’d love to be able to do sitting to standing or going up and down stairs to increase my heart rate, but my knees hurt when I do that. Or when you are throwing snowballs in the backyard with your children your shoulder hurts come in for a physiotherapy assessment. We can help to get you back to achieving the youthful benefits of exercise!

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