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Habitual physical exercise has beneficial effects on telomere length in postmenopausal women

Kim, Jung-Ha MD1; Ko, Jae-Hong PhD2; Lee, Duk-chul MD, PhD3; Lim, Inja MD, PhD2; Bang, Hyoweon MD, PhD2

doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3182503e97
Original Articles

Objective It has been reported that women benefit from the maintenance of telomere length by estrogen. Exercise may favorably influence telomere length, although results are inconsistent regarding the duration and type of exercise and the cell type used to measure telomere length. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between habitual physical exercise and telomere length in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) in postmenopausal women. Postmenopausal women were chosen as study participants because they are typically estrogen deficient.

Methods This experimental-control, cross-sectional study included 44 healthy, nondiabetic, nonsmoking, postmenopausal women. Habitual exercisers and sedentary participants were matched for age and body mass index. Body weight, height, blood pressure, and waist and hip circumference were measured. Mitochondrial DNA copy number and telomere length in PBMCs were determined, and biochemical tests were performed. Habitual physical exercise was defined as combined aerobic and resistance exercise performed for at least 60 minutes per session more than three times a week for more than 12 months.

Results The mean age of all participants was 58.11 ± 6.84 years, and participants in the habitual exercise group had been exercising more than three times per week for an average of 19.23 ± 5.15 months. Serum triglyceride levels (P = 0.01), fasting insulin concentrations (P < 0.01), and homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance (P < 0.01) were significantly lower and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels (P < 0.01), circulating adiponectin (P < 0.01), mitochondrial DNA copy number (P < 0.01), and telomere length (P < 0.01) were significantly higher in the habitual exercise group than in the sedentary group. In a stepwise multiple regression analysis, habitual exercise (β = 0.522, P < 0.01) and adiponectin levels (β = 0.139, P = 0.03) were the independent factors associated with the telomere length of PBMCs in postmenopausal women.

Conclusions Habitual physical exercise is associated with greater telomere length in postmenopausal women. This finding suggests that habitual physical exercise in postmenopausal women may reduce telomere attrition.

From the 1Department of Family Medicine, Chung-Ang University Medical Center, Seoul, Korea; 2Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea; and 3Department of Family Medicine, Severance Hospital, Yonsei University, College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.

Received November 3, 2011; revised and accepted February 14, 2012.

Funding/support: This research was supported by a Chung-Ang University research grant in 2011.

Financial disclosure/conflicts of interests: None reported.

Address correspondence to: Hyoweon Bang, MD, PhD, Department of Physiology, College of Medicine, Chung-Ang University, 221 Heukseok-Dong, Dongjak-Gu, Seoul, Korea 156-756. E-mail:

©2012The North American Menopause Society