It’s important to have an active lifestyle at all ages, but this should continue for the elderly, as new research has reiterated. It has found that women who don’t move about very often are subject to faster ageing cells than those who exercise every day.
The study from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine looked into the health of 1,500 women between the ages of 64 and 95. It discovered that those who sat for long periods of time and exercised for less than 40 minutes a day had more aged cells.
Biologically, these cells were as much as eight years older than their fitter counterparts. As a person ages, their cells also age and DNA protectors found within become shorter and fray. Lifestyle factors can speed or slow down the process, however, having an impact on overall health.
There are tiny caps at the end of DNA strands called telomeres and they have been compared to the plastic tips of shoelaces, as they perform a similar function. They prevent chromosomes from deteriorating, but they shorten with age.
Measuring the length of telomeres is one way to establish the biological age of a person, but sometimes there is a disparity with their chronological age. Shortened telomeres have previously been linked with increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a number of major cancers.
This latest study suggests that the level of exercise done by women has an effect on their length and should therefore be factored into future research. As well as completing questionnaires about their activity, the participants wore accelerometers on their right hip to track movement.
Dr Aladdin Shadyab, lead study author, said: "We found that women who sat for longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day. Discussions about the benefits of exercise should start when we are young, and physical activity should continue to be part of our daily lives as we get older, even at 80 years old."
Encouraging older people to continue being active can make a huge difference to their lives. Families can be instrumental in this, but so can the staff in care homes, who point towards the advice given by NHS Choices.
It states that the elderly should break up long periods of sitting with light exercise. People aged 65 and over should be able to complete 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week, which could be walking or cycling. Strength exercises to work on the major muscles, such as legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms, should be done at least twice a week.