As the days are getting longer and warmer, more and more people feel attracted to go out and enjoy nature. You can also see more people out there bicycling or jogging and it seems that together with nature our drive to sports is awakening. The positive effects of sport are widely known. Activity is strengthening our cardiovascular system and it is able to prevent us from many kinds of various diseases. People who are doing sport are healthier, more balanced and live longer than people who are not active.
Just recently I was reading an article about the effects of sport on our cells that was very interesting to me. Professor Laufs from the University of Leipzig in Germany was examining the effects of different types of sport on the cells of our body and he found out, that it makes a great difference, what kind of sport we are doing! If you want to do sport, you have principally two choices: Either you can do endurance-training like swimming, running or cycling, or you can do resistance-training, and strengthen your muscles. You would typically do this with dumbbells or other fitness-devices in a gym. It was astonishing to me, that Professor Laufs found out, that endurance-training had a much greater benefit on the health of our cells, than resistance-training!
Professor Laufs and his team were examining 266 inactive young people and putting them basically into 3 different groups. The first group was starting with endurance-training (running) 3 times a week, the second group was doing resistance-training (pumping iron) 3 times a week and the third group was continuing their inactive lifestyle from before. After six months blood-examinations were taken from the participants and their Leukocytes were examined for length of telomeres in the cell nucleus. Now Professor Laufs found out, that the length of telomeres in the “running-group” was increased, while resistance-training did not show these effects! But what does this mean?
The DNA contains our genetic information in the cell nucleus. It is packed in 46 Chromosomes. Now each Chromosome is “protected and sealed” by a special cap on each end, which is called “telomere”. The problem is, that this cap is shortening with each replication of the cell and that this shortening of telomeres is viewed to be an important mechanism of cellular aging. But there is one enzyme in our body, called “Telomerase” that can reverse this shortening of Telomeres. Now Professor Laufs found out, that the length of Telomeres and the activity of Telomerase was increased in the “running-group” compared to the “inactivity-group”, but that resistance-training (pumping) did not show the same effects! That means, that endurance-training like running, cycling or swimming has an outstanding potential of keeping our cells young!
To my knowledge this was for the first time, that it could have been scientifically shown, that sport can keep our cells young on a molecular level! The reason for the increased activity of telomerase in the running-group may be due to an increased level of nitric-oxide in the blood-vessels during endurance-training, which is acting like a hormone and providing different cellular changes. You can say, that we are made for moving outside and that by doing so, we can do our part for “healthy aging”. It was very interesting to me also, that sport is not all the same, but that endurance-training seems to be more healthie for our body than resistance-training! Resistance-training can be an addition or complement to endurance-training, but it can never replace it. Another advantage of endurance-training is, that you can easily do it outside and get an additional extra-portion of fresh air and sunlight! And you can practice it in a group together with other people! So why don’t use the warmer and brighter days of springtime to go out and do some exercise? Your cells will love it!
Source: “Endurance but not resistance training has anti-aging effects”, European Society of Cardiology, 27.11.2018 (ESC Press Office)