Cardiorespiratory fitness and telomere length: a systematic review

J Sports Sci. 2020 Jul;38(14):1690-1697. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2020.1754739. Epub 2020 Apr 14.


This study aimed to systematically review the association between cardiorespiratory fitness and telomere length (TL). Studies were identified from searches in Cochrane Central, PubMed, Scopus, Sportdiscus, and Web of Science databases through July 2019. Eligibility criteria included: cross-sectional, prospective, and experimental study design; outcomes included TL; results expressed the relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and TL; studies published in English, Portuguese, or Spanish. A total of 20 articles met the inclusion criteria. Sixteen studies (80%) reported a significant relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness, or training load, and TL. Better cardiorespiratory fitness or a large cardiorespiratory training load are associated with an increase in TL. Although, TL was related to regular moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise and cardiorespiratory fitness in older healthy humans, it was not related to cardiorespiratory fitness among young subjects. There seems to be a positive and significant relationship between cardiorespiratory fitness and TL, mainly among middle age and older people, which emphasizes the importance of cardiorespiratory fitness for healthy ageing. Therefore, endurance exercise and better cardiorespiratory fitness may regulate the TL in middle age and older adults, slowing the cellular ageing process.

Keywords: Aerobic fitness; DNA; endurance; exercise; physical activity; running.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Cardiorespiratory Fitness / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Physical Conditioning, Human / physiology
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Telomere / physiology*
  • Telomere Shortening / physiology