A new study of genetic data published today (Wednesday) of more than 400,000 UK adults has revealed a clear link between walking pace and a genetic marker of biological age.
Confirming a causal link between walking pace and leucocyte telomere length (LTL) – an indicator of biological age – the Leicester-based team of researchers estimate that a lifetime of brisk walking could lead to the equivalent of 16 years younger biological age by midlife.
Researchers from the University of Leicester at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre studied genetic data from 405,981 middle-aged UK Biobank participants and found that a faster walking pace, independent of the amount of physical activity, was associated with longer telomere.
Telomeres are the ‘caps’ at the end of each chromosome, and hold repetitive sequences of non-coding DNA that protect the chromosome from damage, similar to the way the cap at the end of a shoelace stops it from unravelling.
Each time a cell divides, these telomeres become shorter – until a point where they become so short that the cell can no longer divide, known as ‘replicative senescence’. Therefore, scientists consider LTL a strong marker for ‘biological age’, independent from when an individual was born.
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