May 10 (UPI) -- Researchers at Brigham Young University found in a recent study that high levels of exercise are associated with nine years of less aging at the cellular level.
For the study, researchers analyzed data on 5,823 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which includes the evaluation of telomere length values for study participants.
Telomeres are the protein endcaps of chromosomes that are extremely correlated with age. The older people get, the shorter their telomeres become.
Researchers found that adults with high levels of physical activity have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of nine years compared to people who are sedentary. People who were moderately active had a seven-year advantage.
The shortest telomeres were found in people who were sedentary resulting in 140 base pairs of DNA less than highly active individuals.
"Just because you're 40, doesn't mean you're 40 years old biologically," Larry Tucker, exercise science professor at Brigham Young, said in a press release. "We all know people that seem younger than their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies. If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won't cut it. You have to work our regularly at high levels."
The study was published in Preventive Medicine.