Older men who have played football regularly throughout their lives have cells up to 11 years younger than their physically inactive peers.
The figure comes from a study by a group of Danish researchers
, which suggests that physical activity can keep biological ageing at bay.
For the study, which is published in the latest issue of US journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases
, the researchers investigated the length of telomeres – an expression of the biological age of a cell. The shorter the telomere, the older the cell.
The study, which was based on 140 men, showed that those aged 65 to 80 years – who had played football regularly – had longer telomeres than their inactive counterparts.
The elderly footballers had 2.5 per cent higher granulocyte telomere length and 1.3 per cent higher lymphocyte telomere length compared to inactive men of the same age. The footballers also had 37 per cent lower mRNA expression of the pro-senescent factor p16 (a cellular senescence and tumor suppressor gene), when compared to those who were inactive.
“The older football players were in excellent physical shape, which was manifested in the younger biological age in the cells,” said Peter Krustrup, professor at the Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics at University of Southern Denmark, which undertook the study.
"This is the first cross-sectional, controlled trial showing the effects of lifelong football participation on telomere shortening and senescence markers in circulating cells.
"It suggests that football induces cellular anti-senescence mechanisms implying positive long-term cardiovascular health effects."
• To read more about the study, click here