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Sports and Exercise at Different Ages and Leukocyte Telomere Length in Later Life--Data from the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II).

Authors: Denise D. Saßenroth, Antje A. Meyer, Bastian B. Salewsky, Martin M. Kroh, Kristina K. Norman, Elisabeth E. Steinhagen-Thiessen, Ilja I. Demuth
Published: 12/02/2015, PloS one


Physical activity and sports have repeatedly been reported to be associated with telomere length. We studied the association of different types of sports across different stages of life on relative leukocyte telomere length (rLTL) in advanced age.815 participants (397 men) from the Berlin Aging Study II aged over 61 years were included in the analysis. rLTL was measured by real time PCR and physical activity was determined retrospectively by questionnaire, assessing type and duration of sports in the past as well as currently. Five separate multiple linear regression models adjusted for various control variables were performed. 67.3% of participants exercised currently, whereas 19.4% performed sports only between the age of 20 and 30. rLTL was higher in subjects who stated to exercise currently (N = 456), and in subjects who engaged in endurance (N = 138) or intensive activity sports (N = 32). Current physical activity was positively associated with rLTL in the risk factor adjusted regression model (β = 0.26, p < 0.001) and practicing sports for a minimum of 10 years preceding the assessment had a significant effect on rLTL (β = 0.39, p = 0.011). The highest impact was seen for intensive activity sports (β = 0.79, p < 0.001) and physical activity since at least 42 years (β = 0.47, p = 0.001). However, physical activity only between 20 and 30 years of age did not affect rLTL in old age when compared to no sports at all (β = -0.16, p = 0.21). Physical activity is clearly associated with longer rLTL. The effect is seen with longer periods of physical activity (at least 10 years), with intensive sports activities having the greatest impact on rLTL. Our data suggest that regular physical activity for at least 10 years is necessary to achieve a sustained effect on rLTL.

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