It’s no secret that exercising regularly has plenty of great benefits. From making you feel happier to helping you with weight loss to increasing your energy, exercising can boost your health and overall wellbeing. But did you know that exercise makes you younger at the cellular level?

In a study conducted by Preventive Medicine, it was noted when compared to those who were sedentary, those who often exercised had biological markers that appeared to be nine years younger.

Researchers had access to data from almost 6,000 adults who participated in the multi-year survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the survey, people were asked what physical activities they did and how strenuously they did them. Along with their exercise information, the participants also provided DNA samples. From the DNA, researchers measured the telomere length, the protein caps found on the ends of human chromosomes.

Telomeres are markers that show the age and overall health of a person. When a cell replicates, a small percentage of telomere is lost, so as someone gets older, they will get shorter with age.¬†In general, people with shorter telomeres will have shorter life spans and are more likely to develop chronic diseases. It’s not an exact science, but the length of your telomeres is a reliable indication of biological aging.

After accounting for other factors such as smoking, alcohol use, gender, and race, it was soon discovered that those who exercised more frequently had longer telomeres. Participants of the study who were sedentary were found to have 140 fewer base pairs of DNA at the ends of their telomeres.

To be considered in the top tier of exercisers, participants need to exercise at least 30 to 40 minutes, five days a week. Doing less activity was still linked to aging benefits but they were not as impactful. Experts believe that the length of telomeres are linked to inflammation and oxidative stress, which would make sense to why exercise has shown to help.

While the study has yielded some impressive results, there are no absolute guarantees that people with longer telomeres will live longer. Yes, it may be a valid biological marker, but it’s important to focus on multiple aspects of health, other than exercising.