Playing a few rounds of golf, bowling, dancing or enjoying any of a number of leisure-time activities later in life may help you live longer.
That’s the message in a recent study by a University of Florida scientist and researchers from across the nation. It found that older women who exercised in leisure activities biologically aged at a slower pace than those who didn’t. In fact, the most physically active women were five years younger biologically than the least active.
Researchers surveyed the leisure activities of 1,476 women and then took blood samples to measure the length of repeating DNA sequences called telomeres (TELO-meers) at the end of their chromosomes. The sequences protect the chromosome from deterioration, acting like the bands at the end of shoelaces.
Those DNA sequences shorten with age and that shortening is associated with cell deterioration, major chronic disease and biological aging.
All study participants were asked how often they engaged in light activities such as slow dancing, bowling and golf; moderate activities like biking and easy swimming; and vigorous activities including dancing, jogging and aerobics.
About 20 percent of the women reported they did not engage in any activities. The researchers found a significant trend toward longer DNA sequences with those who participated in more leisure-time activity.
Exercise has been found to stimulate an enzyme in the body that works to lengthen the DNA sequences. While this study looked just at women, previous work has linked longer DNA sequences to physically active men.
So, like the song says, “Keep on dancing!”