Good news, everyone! A new study has shown that exercising, eating and sleeping well may help to slow aging. How? It all hast to do with telomeres.

Telomeres are tips at the end of chromosomes that regulate the aging of cells. The study found that telomeres shorten when stressful events occur. When telomeres shorten, cells age more rapidly. You can think of telomeres like the plastic tips on shoelaces. If those tips break off, the shoelace will be unprotected and begin to unravel.

The year-long study looked at 239 post-menopausal women. They each provided a blood sample at the start and end of the year. During the year, they reported on their exercise, eating and sleeping habits, and any stressful events that occurred.

The results showed that those who experienced more stress had significantly shortened telomeres, if they weren’t exercising, eating and sleeping well. However, if they did exercise, eat and sleep well then extra stress did not cause shortened telomeres.

Based on this evidence, Dr. Michael Speicher concluded that, “If we are in stressful situations, physical activity, sleep and nutrition are of really great importance to keep our bodies in shape and stay healthy. With this study we see it on the genetic level.”

Although the study only looked at women, Speicher and his colleagues believe the results would apply to men as well. Also, it’s important to note that the study hasn’t conclusively proven a cause and effect relationship between exercising, eating and sleeping well and telomere length. But the researchers want to move on to randomized trials next year, which will hopefully prove just that.