Telomeres are repetitive DNA located at the ends of chromosomes that form important protective structures to maintain genome integrity. Excessive telomere shortening culminates in telomere dysfunction prior cell senescence or apoptosis. Patients with rare genetic conditions involving mutations in key telomere-regulating genes possess extremely short telomeres, exhibit accelerated ageing traits and die prematurely. Furthermore, relatively short telomeres are also found in individuals with chronic age-related diseases (e.g. coronary artery disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s). Although unhealthy lifestyle factors can accelerate telomere attrition and biological ageing, regular endurance exercise training is associated with telomere maintenance. Endurance exercise improves maximal aerobic fitness, which appears to be an important trait associated with long telomeres. Whilst mitochondria already have an established role in ageing, we now know that their function are linked to another one of the hallmarks of ageing – telomere shortening. Here, I discuss the link between telomeres and mitochondria, and suggest that exercise may attenuate telomere attrition via a TERT/telomerase mediated process governed by mitochondria.
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