BYLINE: Mario Boone

Newswise — Long Beach, Calif. (April 5, 2024)—Regular aerobic exercise later in life prevents genomic instability characterized by DNA damage and telomere dysfunction, according to a study from the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Utah. Researchers will present their work this week at the American Physiology Summit, the flagship annual meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS), in Long Beach, California.   

These new findings will greatly impact our understanding of the mechanisms on how aerobic exercise improves vascular health at the level of genomic stability.” Jisok Lim, PhD

Late-life exercise used to be thought of as ineffective. However, existing studies indicate aerobic exercise later in life lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality. Yet, the specific factors contributing to this effect have not been completely understood. 

Researchers examined whether regular exercise with aging may prevent DNA damage and telomere dysfunction. Telomeres are protective caps at the end of chromosomes. In this study, exercise was shown to be especially helpful in cells that come in direct contact with blood flow (endothelial cells). The benefits of aerobic exercise are particularly noticeable in the aortic regions less prone to atherosclerosis due to favorable blood flow patterns.

During the four-month study, 15 male mice were given access to a voluntary running wheel. The mice were assigned to high-, moderate- and low-running groups based on their consistent running distances. Aortic tissues exposed to different blood flow patterns were collected to evaluate DNA damage and telomere function. The findings suggest the increased level of exercise later in life has a beneficial impact on DNA damage and telomere dysfunction.

There are many contributing factors to arterial aging. The driving factor among them is DNA damage. While more study in this area is needed, physiologists hope these findings lay the groundwork for improving human health in the future. “By revealing the varied responses of aortic regions experiencing different blood flow patterns and cell types to aerobic exercise, this research will provide a firm ground on a detailed and customized approach to interventions for cardiovascular health,” said Jisok Lim, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Utah and lead author of the study. 

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: The American Physiology Summit will be held April 4–7, 2024, in Long Beach, California. To request the full abstract, “Late-life aerobic exercise reverses DNA and telomere dysfunction in non-atheroprone aortic regions with advanced age” (#2094), or schedule an interview with the researchers, conference organizers or presenters, contact APS Media Relations or call 301.634.7314. Find more highlights from the meeting in our Summit Newsroom.   

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry focusing on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators

Meeting Link: American Physiology Summit