Journal Article

Chronic and acute effects of endurance training on telomere length

Andrea Borghini, Guido Giardini, Alessandro Tonacci, Francesca Mastorci, Antonella Mercuri, Simona Mrakic Sposta, Sarah Moretti, Maria Grazia Andreassi and Lorenza Pratali

in Mutagenesis

Published on behalf of United Kingdom Environmental Mutagen Society

Volume 30, issue 5, pages 711-716
Published in print September 2015 | ISSN: 0267-8357
Published online May 2015 | e-ISSN: 1464-3804 | DOI:
Chronic and acute effects of endurance training on telomere length

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  • Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics
  • Genetics and Genomics


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Telomere shortening is considered a cellular marker of health status and biological ageing. Exercise may influence the health and lifespan of an individual by affecting telomere length (TL). However, it is unclear whether different endurance exercise levels may have beneficial or detrimental effects on biological aging. The aims of the study were to assess both chronic and acute effects of endurance training on TL after an exceptional and extreme trail race. TL was assessed in 20 endurance athletes (17 males; age = 45.4±9.2 years) and 42 age- and gender-matched sedentary controls (32 males; age = 45.9±9.5 years) with quantitative real-time PCR at baseline conditions. Of the 20 runners enrolled in the ‘Tor des Géants ®’ ultra-distance trail race, 15 athletes (12 males; age = 47.2±8.5 years) were re-evaluated at the intermediate point and 14 athletes (11 males; age = 47.1±8.8 years) completed the competition and were analysed at the final point. Comparison between the two groups (endurance athletes vs. sedentary controls) revealed a significant difference in TL (1.28±0.4 vs. 1.02±0.3, P = 0.005). TL was better preserved in elder endurance runners compared with the same age control group (1.3±0.27 vs. 0.91±0.21, P = 0.003). TL was significantly reduced at the intermediate (0.88±0.36 vs. 1.11±0.34, P = 0.002) and final point compared with baseline measurements (0.86±0.4 vs. 1.11±0.34, P = 0.0006) for athletes engaged in the ultra-marathon race. Our data suggest that chronic endurance training may provide protective effects on TL attenuating biological aging. Conversely, acute exposure to an ultra-distance endurance trail race implies telomere shortening probably caused by oxidative DNA damage.

Journal Article.  4544 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics ; Genetics and Genomics

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