Background and Aim: Physical exercise up-regulates telomere-stabilizing proteins in mice, suggesting that physical activity affects telomere length. Several human studies assessing the relationship between physical activity, measured by health or activity surveys, and telomere length have produced conflicting results. The present study sought to explore the association between telomere length and physical fitness measured objectively as maximal oxygen uptake in endurance-trained athletes and sedentary controls.
Methods: Seventeen marathon runners and 15 age- and sex-matched healthy, sedentary control subjects participated in the study. Medical history, demographic information, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max), and peripheral blood lymphocyte telomere length were measured in all subjects. Statistical analysis was performed to examine the relationship between telomere length and measured variables.
Results: Athletes and sedentary controls had similar lymphocyte (0.97 ± 0.20 vs 1.01 ± 0.18; P = 0.6) and granulocyte (0.89 ± 0.11 vs 0.89 ± 0.12; P = 0.9) telomere lengths. Linear regression analysis showed age as the only variable significantly associated with telomere length (P = 0.007). There was no correlation between VO2 max and telomere length.
Conclusion: In a cohort of healthy adult athletes and sedentary controls, there was no association between physical activity measured by VO2 max and peripheral blood lymphocyte and granulocyte telomere length.