21 Dec 2022 Updates

Physical exercise as a key to eternal youth

Regular physical exercise can positively influence aging processes and slow them down. This is proven by a collaborative study of COREMED and Med Uni Graz.

Researcher Marlies Schellnegger

At COREMED, Marlies Schellnegger deals intensively with the topic of healthy aging. Picture: JOANNEUM RESEARCH/Schwarzl


A rolling stone gathers no moss: A recent study by COREMED, the cooperative Center for Regenerative Medicine, and Med Uni Graz proves the youth-keeping effect of physical exercise at the cellular level: regular exercise can positively influence and demonstrably slow down processes of aging. Differences in biological age between people who exercise and people who don’t can be more than 10 years. No miracle cure for eternal youth has yet been found, but the solution here may be more obvious than one might think: studies give us hope that regular exercise helps to protect and preserve our cells, making us not only healthier but also aging more slowly.

A question of the length of the telomeres

The physician and sports scientist Dr Marlies Schellnegger of COREMED explains it this way: “This protective effect can be determined on the basis of telomere length. Telomeres are cellular markers of biological age. These markers can be thought of as protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes; with each cell division, telomeres shorten, causing cell death over time.” Now, she and co-authors have published paper in “Sports Medicine” showing that regular exercise interferes with this very process. Exercise activates cellular processes that protect and even lengthen telomeres. While even well-preserved or longer telomeres do not turn back time, they are sometimes involved in aging healthier and more agile. According to Schellnegger: “Shorter telomeres are not only associated with premature cell aging, but also with chronic diseases such as diabetes mellitus, tumor and cardiovascular diseases. This once again underscores the health benefits of regular exercise.” The good news is that you don’t have to go all out in sports every day to achieve positive effects. Moderate exercise at least three times a week is said to be enough to protect telomeres and thus influence the aging process.

An aging society

Aging healthily is not only important for maintaining one’s quality of life, but also for coping with an impending medical care crisis. If we take a look at demographic forecasts, the 60+ age group is expected to triple by 2050; at the same time, the 85+ age group is the one growing most rapidly. People tend to spend the last 10 to 15 years in reduced or poor health. This means that the “healthspan”, i.e. the time spent in good health, lags significantly behind the “lifespan”. Therefore, strategies to slow down the aging process are increasingly in the focus of science.


Mag.a Dr.in Marlies Schellnegger studied medicine and sports science in Vienna and Innsbruck. After graduating in October 2019, she worked as a visiting physician in Lisbon and subsequently started her research activities at COREMED – Cooperative Center for Regenerative Medicine in Graz in 2020. There she is intensively engaged in the field of Healthy Aging. Currently, she is also working at the University Hospital Graz. For Marlies Schellnegger, the topics of exercise, sport and nutrition are clearly in focus.



JOANNEUM RESEARCH Forschungsgesellschaft mbH