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A Journal on Applied Physiology, Biomechanics, Preventive Medicine,
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The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2016 Apr 13


language: English

Association between objectively measured physical activity, chronic stress and leukocyte telomere length

Roland VON KÄNEL 1, 2, 3, Erna J. BRUWER 4, Mark HAMER 5, Hans DE RIDDER 4, Leoné MALAN 1

1 Hypertension in Africa Research Team, HART, North-West University, South Africa; 2 Department of Neurology, University Hospital Bern, Inselspital and University of Bern, Switzerland; 3 Department of Psychosomatic Medicine, Clinic Barmelweid, Barmelweid, Switzerland; 4 Physical Activity, Sport and Recreation research Group, PhASRec, North-West University, South Africa; 5 National Centre of Sport & Medicine, School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, UK


BACKGROUND: Physical activity (PA) attenuates chronic stress and age-related and cardiovascular disease risks, whereby potentially slowing telomere shortening. We aimed to study the association between seven-day objectively measured habitual PA, chronic stress and leukocyte telomere length.
METHODS: Study participants were African (n=96) and Caucasian (n=107) school teachers of the Sympathetic activity and Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Africans study. All lifestyle characteristics (including PA) were objectively measured. The general health questionnaire and serum cortisol were assessed as psychological and physical measures of chronic stress. Leukocyte telomere length was measured using the quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction.
RESULTS: Africans had significantly shorter telomeres (p<.001) and greater psychological distress (p=0.001) than Caucasians, whereas no group difference was seen for cortisol levels. Higher age [ß=-0.28 (-0.40, -0.16), p≤0.000], higher alcohol consumption [ß=- 0.21 (-0.36, -0.08), p=0.003] and increased central obesity [ß=-0.17 (-0.30, -0.03), p=0.017] were all significantly associated with shorter telomeres. Habitual PA of different intensity was not significantly associated with markers of chronic stress or telomere length. However, more time spent with light intensity PA time was significantly and independently correlated with lower waist circumference (r=-0.21, p=0.004); in turn, greater waist circumference was significantly associated shorter telomeres [β=-0.17 (-0.30, -0.03), p=0.017].
CONCLUSIONS: Habitual PA of different intensity was not directly associated with markers of chronic stress and leukocyte telomere length in this biethnic cohort. However, our findings suggest that light intensity PA could contribute to lowered age-related disease risk and healthy ageing by facilitating maintenance of a normal waist circumference.

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