May 19, 2011 posted by

Study: Exercise Prevents Premature Aging

You’ll have to excuse me for re-using a graphic from a post a few weeks back. It’s even more appropriate for today’s entry on the effects of exercise on aging.

The actual title refers to endurance exercise but the findings here were mainly obvious so it didn’t seem worth dilluting the topic. Mark Tarnopolsky, professor of pediatrics and medicine of the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and principal investigator of a study on the relationship between exercise and aging at McMasters University stated, “We have clearly shown that there is no substitute for the “real thing” of exercise when it comes to protection from aging.”

While I’m pretty sure that anyone following my blog knows this, I reported on the study for a couple of reasons. First, I’m sick of people trying to champion nutrition as the be all end all of of health. Humans are animal that are designed to move. When we don’t we fall apart prematurely. End of story.

Diet is important, sure, especially the way we’re taught to eat these days. But exercise is the big ticket to health. Bad diet can be offset by exercise a lot more effectively than what a good diet can do for you if you sit on the couch all day. This study is getting’ some Straight Dope love because it forcefully points this out.

“Others have tried to treat these animals with ‘exercise pill’ drugs and have even tried to reduce their caloric intake, a strategy felt to be the most effective for slowing aging, and these were met with limited success,” said Tarnopolsky.

The other reason it picqued my interest was this,

These mice were genetically engineered to age faster due to a defect in a gene for polymerase gamma (POLG1) that alters the repair system of their mitochondria — the cellular powerhouses responsible for generating energy for nearly every cell in the body.

Mitochondria are unique in that they have their own DNA. It has been thought that lifelong accumulation of mitochondrial DNA mutations lead to energy crisis that result in a progressive decline in tissue and organ function, ultimately resulting in aging. But the study on genetically-disadvantaged mice found those who had endurance exercise training three times a week looked as young as healthy mice while their sedentary siblings were balding, graying, physically inactive, socially isolated and less fertile.

Not the part about genetically engineering mice to age quickly. I find that ethically a little troubling. But the part about mitochodria having their own DNA is down right fascinating, and a pretty clear link to the importance of exercise. I do take note that unsupervised treadmill running is not necessarily “endurance” exercise, which should only be stated if they controlled that situation, which there is no indication of. The mice could have been interval training and my guess is they probably were but, you know, whatever.

“I believe that we have very compelling evidence that clearly show that endurance exercise is a lifestyle approach that improves whole body mitochondrial function which is critical for reducing morbidity and mortality,” states lead author Adeel Safdar. “Exercise truly is the fountain of youth.”


  • Great blog Steve! I love seeing the research coming out of McMaster University. I am a resident of Southern Ontario myself, just an hour or so away from the city of Hamilton where McMaster is located. My wife complete here B.Sc. there in Molecular Biology and is now studying towards her PhD at University of Toronto in Molecular Genetics. McMaster is a fantastic school!

  • I didn't read the research paper, but endurance exercise training has to be define in someway for the paper to be useful in anyway. Almost every marathon runner I have seen looks older than their.

  • I'm almost certain they are defining endurance as heart rate elevated over time. Within "endurance" there are still many energy systems to be training. Regardless, there is no doubt that all exercise offsets aging. And it's like a more the merrier scenario.The marathoner/triathlete et al thing you're referring to is for skin damage from too much time in the sun. They are starting to get better about this but it is a bit of an occupational hazard. Things come back around. Check out very old runners and see if you think the same thing. Age spots on the skin, sure, but generally very thin, muscular, and with a lot of excess energy.

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