By now, the benefits of exercise have been well established, including increased strength of bones and muscles, improved mobility and endurance, and lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
In a new study from the University of Arkansas, researchers found exercise can keep you younger on an epigenetic level.
In the study, lab mice nearing the end of their natural lifespan, at 22 months, were allowed access to a weighted exercise wheel.
When the mice were studied after two months of progressive weighted wheel running, it was determined that they were the epigenetic age of mice eight weeks younger than sedentary mice of the same age—24 months.
Needless to say, when your lifespan is measured in months, an extra eight weeks—roughly 10 percent of that lifespan—is a noteworthy gain.
The science behind this, while complicated, hinges largely on a biological process known as DNA methylation.
DNA methylation regulates gene expression by recruiting proteins involved in gene repression or by inhibiting the binding of transcription factor(s) to DNA.
As the body ages, there tends to be increased DNA methylation, or even hypermethylation, at promoter sites on genes in muscle.
DNA methylation changes in a lifespan tend to happen in a somewhat systematic fashion.
Due to this, researchers can use one of a number of “methylation clocks” to determine the age of a DNA sample.
Though the connection between methylation and aging is clear, the connection between methylation and muscle function is less clear.
The team says future work needs to see if the reversal of methylation with exercise could help improve muscle health.
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The study is published in Aging Cell. One author of the study is Kevin Murach.
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