I’m off to lengthen my telomeres


The headline is code-speak for “off to work out at the gym.”

I joined SNAP Fitness a few weeks ago. I was lured by their ad hype that it’s open 24/7 (like I’m I would ever go at 2 a.m.). After several starts and stops, I’ve settled into a routine I can live with and actually enjoyed myself yesterday. 

tv treadmill

My motivation?  Frankly, I like the fact that each cardio machine has its very own personal flat panel television built in.  So I can walk, run, cycle and climb stairs while watching my favorite Food network chef prepare rich unhealthy dishes.  Go figure.

My friend, Pie, times her workout to watch her favorite soap opera.  She can’t wait for 11 a.m., and she’s on her treadmill several minutes in advance five days a week.

My ultimate motivation to take it seriously was an article which appeared in the “Archives of Internal Medicine.” It said people who exercise may be biologically up to 10 years younger than those who do not.  The experts gaged biological age by measuring telomeres, the part of chromosomes whose length has been linked to life span.

These shorten as we age due to inflammation and cell damage over time, says Lynn F. Cherkas, Ph.D.  On average, subjects who did a mix of strength training and cardiovascular exercise for more than three hours a week had telomeres that were as long as sedentary people up to 10 years younger. That’s just three days a week, plus one minute!

Since all I’ve done since January is pound the pavement – the new routine is a welcome relief.  I do my stairs or miles in an abbreviated 25-30 minute workout, then do the weight machines for the remaining 25-30 minutes.  Much less daunting than facing two hours dodging traffic in this college town where 75 percent of drivers are text messaging and paying no attention to anyone else on the road!

Such exercise reduces the telomere-shortening damage of behaviors such as smoking and stress and, I hope, too many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

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