One of the hottest fields of studies in medicine these days is life extension research with big venture money being invested in companies which are doing cutting-edge studies to see how we can delay or even fully ‘cure’ aging. Companies like Calico, backed by Google, are examining factors of aging and devising “interventions” that might help you lead a longer life. Human Longevity Incorporated, founded by geneticist Craig Venter, one of the leaders of the Human Genome project is also working to “extend and enhance the healthy, high-performance lifespan”, its website says. And there is plenty of research happening outside of these startups and companies.

But does ignoring your diet or not working out reduce your lifespan or simply accelerate your aging process? One recent study says adequate exercise and a balanced diet can assuage the side-effects of aging. Dr Nathan LeBrasseur and his colleagues at the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging at the Mayo Clinic conducted a test to find out whether exercise helps prevent build up of premature senescent cells and exactly how a fast food diet causes metabolic dysfunction, according to a report in Medical News Today.

According to this informative article on removing dysfunctional cells, senescent cells are cells are skin tissue cells or cells playing supporting roles in vital organs, that have lost the ability to divide and reproduce, due to a protective response required by the body. One stark example is cells turning senescent if there are changes in its DNA that would eventually lead to cancer. Senescent cells cannot spread, but as the tissue ages they get accumulated along with their proteins, leading to inflammation and weakened metabolic immunity.

The Mayo Clinic test divided mice into 2 groups where one consumed a “normal, healthy diet” and the other had a “fast-food diet.” Mice in the second group – the one with the fast-food diet – experienced unhealthy changes in body weight and composition with fat shooting up massively over the 4-month test period. When these same mice began to exercise, their health started to improve significantly. This is the well-established idea behind exercise, but the study also found that the mice which gained less body weight and fat mass because of exercise were less likely to develop senescent cells, than their counterparts that also ate fast-food but did not exercise. This latter group clearly accumulated more senescent cells, increasing the rate at which the tissue starts to accumulate the aforementioned proteins, increasing threat to life through cardiac diseases and metabolic disorders.

A daily swim is more than enough from a fitness perspective.
A daily swim is more than enough (Image: Pexels)

Researchers say this clearly shows diet and exercise play a role in how fast your cells age, “not only at a clinically observable level but also at a biological and cellular level,” according to the report.

LeBrasseur adds in the paper: “That doesn’t mean that we need to be marathon runners, but we need to find ways to increase our habitual activity levels to stay healthy and prevent processes that drive aging and aging-related diseases.” Even if one reaches ‘midlife’ with great health and vitality due to regular exercise, the process of aging is already ongoing. The objective should be to keep its typical side-effects away through regular exercise.

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