Cellular Ageing and it’s Impact on Sedentary Older Women

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, Aladdin Shadyab, PhD, of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at University of California-San Diego (UCSD) instituted a clinical study into the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise on the biological ageing of older women.

The study’s cohort comprised of a mix of white and African-American women, with an average age of 79, and reviewed clinical signs of cellular ageing patterns, which are assessed by measuring the length of the telomere structures in the cells. Telomeres are repetitive DNA sequences that occur at the end of chromosomes, and help prevent the chromosomes from degenerating, acting much like the plastic tips on shoelaces, which keep the laces from fraying. As cells age, telomere length shortens, until the cell eventually dies, or undergoes what is known as an oncological transformation – a change in cell structure which has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

In Shadyab’s study, levels of activity, and time spent in sedentary occupation, were recorded both through an accelerometer worn on the right hip, and via self-reporting, and were adjusted to account for variables such as existing health, demographic, body mass index (BMI), and general lifestyle.

The study found that older women who were sedentary for more than 10 hours a day, and who exercised for less than 40 minutes a day – the recommended minimum is 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day – had, on average, an 8-year cellular age difference to less sedentary women, of the same chronological age, who exercised for at least the recommended daily minimum.

Cellular ageing gives us our “biological age”, which, really, is our true age, and which, as this study shows, can vary markedly from our chronological age. While sedentary lifestyles are a leading cause of accelerated biological ageing, other factors including smoking and alcohol consumption habits, general lifestyle, and levels of stress experienced.

The findings of Shadyab’s study prove that, while it is important for good lifestyle habits to start as early as possible, these habits should be continued well into our twilight years, as the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on health and life expectancy are not restricted to younger professionals in office environments, but can, and do, impact older people, too.

If you’re struggling with exercise due to pain or injury, or it’s preventing you from getting out and about, we’re offering free 30 minute assessments. Book your appointment here and find out what could be causing your pain and how we can help you.

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The Author

Lewis Payne

Lewis graduated from The University of Nottingham in 2013 with a First Class Honours in Physiotherapy, worked as Sheffield F.C.’s first team Physiotherapist, and now runs a leading-edge private clinic in Sheffield. With over ten years of experience, he specialises in manual therapy, advanced technological treatments, and exercise-based approaches, focusing on spinal and joint conditions, sports injuries, and specifically complex spinal issues like disc pathology and scoliosis. Lewis leads in IDD Therapy, performing over 6000 treatments, offers MRI referrals and reviews, and employs a holistic treatment philosophy viewing the body as a Tensegrity structure. He excels in postural analysis, soft tissue release techniques, and prescribes biomechanical corrective exercises to enhance natural movement.