We know that sedentary lifestyles aren’t good for us. We also know that exercise is good for us. Neither of these statements are new revelations. Yet research emerging from Brigham Young University is telling us exactly how much exercise impacts the aging process on a cellular level.

It all comes down to  telomeres – tiny proteins sitting, like endcaps, on the end of your DNA. “Each time a cell replicates, we lose a tiny bit of the endcaps. Therefore, the older we get, the shorter our telomeres [1].”

The study, lead by exercise science professor Larry Tucker, found that people who maintained consistently high levels of physical activity had significantly longer telomeres than those who were sedentary or only moderately active. At the extreme end of the comparison (those with very high levels of physical activity compared with those who were sedentary) this amounted to 9 years difference in telomere length [2].  And, compared to those who were moderately active, people who were highly active had a hefty 7 years gain.

“Just because you’re 40, doesn’t mean you’re 40 years old biologically,” Tucker said. “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 [1].”

So what kind of activity levels are we talking about here? The study used benchmarks of 30 minutes jogging for women, and 40 minutes jogging for men, five days a week [1, 2].  Although the exact mechanism for the preservation of telomeres has not yet been pinpointed, Tucker speculated it could be tied to inflammation and oxidative stress.

So regular physical activity is key (though we’re still unsure how). And the more intense, the better.

Interestingly, a fascinating new case study (of one person) noted that chiropractic care affected one person’s telomere length [3]*. This is a very limited study, as it was only of one person, and we’re not sure how chiropractic care could impact telomere length. But perhaps it is also possible through the effect that chiropractic could have on inflammation and oxidative stress. Or perhaps it’s a totally other pathway?

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have a large study that looks at the impact of chiropractic care on telomere length? Or on those markers of stress? Or on ageing?

What is important to remember is that it is always better to live a healthier lifestyle.

If sitting, or lack of physical activity has got you feeling strains in your body, back or neck, it might be good to come in for a check-up.



[1] “High level of exercise linked to nine years of less aging at the cellular level,” Medical Express, https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-05-high-linked-years-aging-cellular.htmlretrieved May 15, 2017[2] Tucker L (2017), “Physical activity and telomere length in U.S. men and women: An NHANES investigation,” Preventive Medicine (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.04.027[3] Increased Telomere Length and Improvements in Dysautonomia, Quality of Life, and Neck and Back Pain Following Correction of Sagittal Cervical Alignment Using Chiropractic BioPhysics Technique: a Case Study. Article here.

*This study is very limited in its implications. It should not, by any means, be interpreted to mean that chiropractic care always has an effect on telomere length, nor that it necessarily will have a similar effect on you. The goal of chiropractic is always to remove interference to the brain’s communication with the body (by adjusting subluxations), allowing you to be functioning better.

[H/T to the Australian Spinal Research Foundation for the research report]