Can exercise help your cells live longer?

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© Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy/cultura/Corbis

Our cells are constantly replenishing themselves — with new ones replacing old ones that die off during routine apoptosis, or programmed cell death. According to new research published this week in the journal BMC Physiology, strenuous exercise might slow down the process of apoptosis, effectively making your cells live longer.

To see how strenuous exercise impacts programmed cell death, a team of Italian researchers took blood samples from 10 long-distance runners the day before and two hours after completing a marathon. They also took samples from six long-distance runners who did not participate in rigorous exercise during the study period. By examining certain cells extracted from the blood samples, researchers found that compared with rates of apoptosis among those who hadn’t run, programmed cell death was temporarily halted among those who had completed the marathon.

Though the researchers warn that marathon-running can have its own health risks and that proper training is essential, they suggest that this temporary slow-down of cell death may be part of the way in which strenuous exercise helps maintain heart health and bone strength.