Get up, stand up, look younger, live longer

  • Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 09, 2014 14:56 IST

The elixir of youth is right under your nose but even after you hear about it, it’s very likely that you’ll sit around and do nothing to slow down ageing. It is because this anti-ageing miracle needs you to use your feet a lot more than you do, something many of us cannot do because of the nature of our work or will not do because of sheer laziness.

Spending time on your feet protects your DNA from age-related wear and tear and helps you look younger and live longer, found researchers from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, which selects the Nobel laureate for Medicine each year. Too much sitting down shortens telomeres, which are caps on the tips of chromosomes that protect them from fraying, clumping together and muddling the genetic code. Past research has linked shortened telomeres to premature ageing, disease and early death.

Swedish researchers have found that the less time a person spends sitting, the longer are their telomeres, and the greater are their chances of living long and staying healthy. What surprised researchers, however, was that bouts of structured activity or exercise did not compensate for the time spent sitting. Although people who exercised more tended to be healthier, what effected longevity most was how much time they spent sitting down. As much as low physical activity, sitting and overall sedentary behaviour was detrimental to health and long life, they reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine this week.

The Swedish study reinforces another finding that said exercising, reducing sitting time improves cardio-metabolic health and reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and ruinous obesity. A study of fasting and postmeal glucose and insulin concentrations in a day with frequent breaks from sitting but no exercise versus considerable sitting plus moderate exercise showed that breaks from sitting approximated the effects of moderateintensity exercise on postmeal glucose and insulin responses and glycemic variability. The study was reported in the July issue of the journal, Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism.

Genetic tests to measure your telomere length to assess how fast you are ageing and, by extension, how long you will live are already available online for US$ 500700. These blood tests measure the length of your telomeres and then use them to calculate whether your chronological age (your age in years) matches your biological age (how tired and damaged your body really is). Simply put, the test will determine whether your body is older than you are (chances of it being older are high, given the time most of us spend sitting around) and whether you are at risk of certain diseases. People with the shortest telomeres — shorter than 99% of the population — are at risk for certain diseases, including bone marrow failure, cancers and lung diseases.

How fast or slow our bodies age depends on our genes, environment and the amount of time we spend on our feet. Other factors that influence telomere length are gender (universally, women live longer than men), family history of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancers, smoking, environmental pollution and sun exposure.

Most of us look a lot older than we feel, some of us look older than we want to look. Whatever your age, you want your body to feel or look a decade — give or take a few years — younger. It almost never does. Since you can do little about errant ageing genes handed down by unthoughtful ancestors, the only options before you are to fight ageing with exorbitantly priced anti-ageing creams with tongue-twisting ingredients or opt for nerve-deadening botox shots and painful cosmetic surgery that often make you look like the walking undead.

Those who want to peer into the future can now opt for the telomeres test to determine when they are likely to kick the bucket. Those of us who would rather not know can either work at making ourselves biologically younger by standing on our feet much of the day, or stop looking in the mirror altogether.

You truly are as young as you feel, and living it up till you can’t go on is just the anti-ageing boost many of us need, to battle the monsters of disease and depression that often accompany ageing.

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