The Physical Exercise Routine That Lengthens Life

Scientists have discovered one of the possible keys to why physical exercise is so beneficial to health. And they have also found the most effective type of exercise to launch a mechanism that promotes general well-being and lengthens years of life. The secret is in the telomeres.

Telomere length is one of the keys to health and longevity. Telomeres are the protective “caps” at the ends of chromosomes, the structures that contain genetic information within each cell. Every time a cell reproduces, the telomere shortens, and there comes a time when it can no longer do so and loses the ability to divide. This is one of the explanations that the tissues degenerate over the years.


Researchers from the University Clinic recruited 124 volunteers, who were not in the habit of exercising and who were thoroughly analyzed after performing different types of exercise.

The researchers managed to demonstrate that resistance exercises – such as long-distance running – are capable of slowing down the shortening and even lengthening the telomeres a bit. In contrast, strength exercises, such as weightlifting, did not produce the effect.

The main finding of this six-month controlled, randomized, and supervised study is that resistance training increases telomerase activity and telomere length, two important parameters for cell aging, regenerative capacity, and aging healthy.

Telomerase is an enzyme with the capacity to regenerate and lengthen telomeres.

Participants in the study, which has been published in the Heart Journal, were divided into four groups:

  • The first control group did not do physical exercise
  • The second performed a continuous low intensity run at 60% of the maximum heart rate. The mean distance traveled was 7.3 km, with an average heart rate of 155 beats.
  • The third performed interval training with four high intensity runs with warm-ups and cool-downs.
  • The fourth performed strength exercises (a circuit of eight machine exercises).
  • In all cases, the exercise sessions lasted 45 minutes and were performed three times a week.


After six months, the researchers analyzed the blood samples of all the participants to determine telomerase activity and found that it had increased and that the telomeres had lengthened by up to 3.5% in the volunteers who performed the exercise. Resistance training at intervals and in which they ran with moderate intensity.