The daily exercise that provides a ‘buffer’ against ageing – it’s free and low-intensity

Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer

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Exercise provides a first-line defence against early death by reducing your risk of a range of chronic diseases. Exercise has also been shown to slow down the rate at which the telomere length shortens. Telomeres are the end caps of DNA on our chromosomes, which help in DNA replication and get shorter over time. They are a key marker of the ageing process.

What’s more, one of the exercises shown to produce this effect can be done at home and requires little exertion.

According to a study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, loving-kindness meditation can slow down the rate of ageing.

In loving kindness meditation practices, people learn to cultivate a benevolent and loving energy towards themselves and others.

The participants were randomly assigned to a six-week loving-kindness meditation workshop, a six-week mindfulness meditation workshop, or a waitlist control group.

To measure telomere length, the researchers collected blood samples from the participants at the beginning and end of the study.

While the mindfulness meditation workshop helped the participants to cultivate a nonjudgmental attitude and focus on the present moment, the loving-kindness meditation workshop helped the participants to cultivate warm and friendly feelings towards others.

Overall, the researchers found telomere length tended to shorten for everyone.

“However, the daily practice of loving-kindness meditation appeared to buffer against that attrition,” the researchers said.


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Participants in the loving-kindness group “showed no significant telomere shortening over time”.

“Whereas participants in the mindfulness group, on average, showed significant telomere shortening over time, those changes were intermediate between the loving-kindness meditation and waitlist control groups,” the researchers added.

The benefits of meditation

Meditation might also be useful if you have a medical condition, especially one that may be worsened by stress.

“While a growing body of scientific research supports the health benefits of meditation, some researchers believe it’s not yet possible to draw conclusions about the possible benefits of meditation,” notes the Mayo Clinic.

Some research suggests that meditation may help people manage symptoms of conditions such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Sleep problems
  • Tension headaches.

“Be sure to talk to your health care provider about the pros and cons of using meditation if you have any of these conditions or other health problems,” advises the Mayo Clinic.

General tips to boost longevity

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is integral to boosting your life expectancy.

“This means eating a wide variety of foods in the right proportions, and consuming the right amount of food and drink to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight,” explains the NHS.

According to the NHS, if you’re having foods and drinks that are high in fat, salt and sugar, have these less often and in small amounts.

“Try to choose a variety of different foods from the five main food groups to get a wide range of nutrients,” advises the health body.

Most people in the UK eat and drink too many calories, too much saturated fat, sugar and salt, and not enough fruit, vegetables, oily fish or fibre.

It’s recommended that you eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. They can be fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced.

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