(TIME) [R]esearchers have found that exercise can help keep DNA healthy and young. In a small study…, Anabelle Decottignies, from the de Duve Institute at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels, and her colleagues found that just moderate-intensity physical activity helps hold back cell aging.
They studied a specific part of DNA that keeps track of how many times a cell has divided. Each time a cell divides, it copies its DNA (which is packed into chromosomes) and this section of the chromosomes, called telomeres, gets shorter. In the study, Decottignies identified a molecule that’s responsible for directing this telomere-shortening…
Based on analysis of [samples from the study], the researchers found that a compound called nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1) regulates the production of a factor that in turn controls the shortening of the telomeres. Exercise boosts levels of NRF1, which protects the telomeres from being snipped away. “Think about NRF1 like varnish on nails,” says Decottignies. “You cannot change the nail, but you can change the varnish again and again. What you’re doing is refreshing and replacing the old section with new protective molecules at the telomeres.”
With each bout of moderate exercise, she says, the protection to the telomeres is refreshed, thus helping the DNA, and in turn the cells, to remain “younger” and hold off the aging process. “The protection is constantly renewed upon exercise,” says Decottignies.[Click the title, above, to post a comment.]