Wrinkles aren’t the only ways we show the signs of aging. In fact, they are just a reflection of what is happening inside our cells. Aging begins at the cellular level, and our cells’ chromosomes reveal the toll that life can take on our bodies. Studies have shown that psychological stress actually ages our cells by wearing down the ends of our chromosomes, called “telomeres.”
Telomeres look like the tips of shoelaces, and they prevent our chromosomes from becoming unraveled or frayed. When they become worn by wear and tear, the length of our telomeres shrinks, which is a telltale sign of cellular aging. Every time a cell divides, its telomeres shorten. And when they become too short, the cell can no longer divide and will eventually die. But how quickly our telomeres shorten depends on how well we care for our body. Tim Spector, a professor at King’s College, London, compared the telomere length of more than a thousand pairs of twins. Those who were more physically active had longer telomeres— in essence, younger- looking cells— compared to their twin siblings who were more sedentary.
In other words, genetics doesn’t tell the whole story. The amount of exercise we get has a huge impact on how fast we age. Exercise makes your individual cells more youthful, which in turn makes you look younger from the inside out.
Excerpted from Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You, by Dr. Marie Pasinski (Hyperion)