Women who spend at least 10 hours on their backsides each day speed up their aging process
Researchers tracked the movements of around 1,500 women over the age of 64
They found a link between sedentary lifestyles and the premature ageing of cells
This process is known to increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease
But just half an hour of moderate exercise can undo the damage, experts say
Women who spend too much time sitting down speed up the ageing process, experts have found. Sitting for more than ten hours a day gives women a ‘biological age’ up to eight years older than it should be, according to a major study. The researchers, who tracked the movements of 1,481 women over the age of 64, found a strong link between a sedentary lifestyle and the premature ageing of cells in the body. This process is known to increase the risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
Just half an hour of moderate exercise – such as brisk walking, gardening or cycling – is enough to undo the damage of a day sat down. But very few people do even this level of exercise. Experts last night said the findings should come as a wake-up call to people who spend hours on end without moving. People in Britain are known to spend an average of nine waking hours sitting a day.
A CURE FOR AGEING?
A landmark study identified a new way to replace ageing cells in our body in November.
The research by scientists at Caltech and UCLA could pave the way to developing nip-n-tuck style procedures that reverse and slow the ageing process.
The experiment targeted mutated DNA inside mitochondria – the ‘battery’ of cells.
As people age, DNA breaks down and mutates. But unlike other parts of the body, the mitochondria are not very good at repairing DNA.
But Caltech-UCLA researchers found a way to manipulate the genes so that they break down and remove mutated DNA, regenerating the cells.
Those who work in sedentary jobs are likely to spend even more of their day without moving, with those at particular risk including aeroplane pilots, taxi drivers and office workers, who spend an average of 75 per cent of their working day sitting in front of a computer screen. Dr Aladdin Shadyab, of the University of California, San Diego, led the new study, said: ‘Our study found cells age faster with a sedentary lifestyle.
‘Chronological age doesn’t always match biological age.’
Dame Sally Davies, the Government’s chief medical officer, has called inactivity ‘a silent killer’. She advises adults spend 150 minutes a week – two and a half hours – in moderate activity in bursts of ten minutes or more. Yet polls suggest 44 per cent of Britons do no regular exercise at all. For the new study the San Diego team tracked women for a week using accelerometers – small gadgets attached to the belt which recorded every movement. Using blood tests, they also analysed the health of their cells.
The women, who had an average age of 79, showed far greater degree of damage to their cells if they moved less. Scientists examined their telomeres, the tiny caps found on the ends of DNA strands often compared to the plastic tips of shoelaces, which protect chromosomes from deterioration. Women who were more sedentary had shorter and more frayed telomeres, which scientists use to calculate ‘biological age’.
Dr Shadyab added: ‘We found that women who sat longer did not have shorter telomere length if they exercised for at least 30 minutes a day, the national recommended guideline.
‘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.’ The research team analysed elderly women because they were already taking part in a long-running US study called the Women’s Health Initiative.
They are now planning further studies to see whether the same findings would apply to men.