We know this is a shocker, but yet another study says that exercise is good for you. The newest findings from the University of Maryland focus on how cardiovascular activity affects the heart.

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The team, led by Dr. Stephen Roth, professor of kinesiology and School of Public Health Associate Dean, trained mice to run on what we’re assuming are mini, rodent-sized treadmills. Then, after two days of rest, the mice ran for 30 minutes in a workout mimicking the current exercise recommendations for good health as determined by the American College of Sports. A control group of couch potato mice were used to compare results of the animals’ heart tissues.

Scientists found that post workout, mice had noticeable changes in proteins that are believed to help maintain telomere length. Telomeres are essentially caps at the end of DNA strands that protect chromosomes - the University of Utah likens it to the plastic tips at the end of shoelaces. They naturally shorten as we age, and smaller telomeres are associated with cancer and other diseases.

“As we get older our telomeres shrink until finally it affects the whole DNA,” Roth explains in a statement. “They are affected as soon as you’re born. They are almost like a marker of aging, like tree rings. If we can slow the shrinking process, then presumably the heart tissue would be healthier over time.”

In this case, the study focused on how running would impact the telomerase at the end of our heart chromosomes. According to the paper, exercise not only helped foster healthy telomere length, but stimulated DNA repair.

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Although this study only reflects how exercise impacts rodent hearts, it’s a good first step in understanding how cardiovascular activity can slow the aging process. Of course, an active lifestyle has other health benefits too. The Mayo Clinic advises regular activity to boost your mood, levels of good cholesterol and stamina.

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