A new study shows that people who make a series of key lifestyle changes that involve exercise, diet, social support, and stress management can lengthen their telomeres and prolong the aging process. The study was conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco and the Preventive Medicine Research Institute and published in a recent issue of The Lancet Oncology.

Telomeres are caps on the ends of chromosomes that become shorter as a person ages — whether it be naturally or due to stress or other health problems. The lengthening of telomeres can lead to a longer, healthier life and a more youthful appearance.

For a 5-year period, researchers followed a total of 35 men who suffered from early-stage prostate cancer. Each patient’s health was monitored closely throughout the 5-year period through a series of screenings and biopsies, during which scientists also examined changes in telomere length.

A group of 10 men involved in the study made a series of lifestyle changes that included a low-fat plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables, unrefined grains, and daily exercise that consisted of walking for 30 minutes six times per week. Additionally, the men participated in weekly support groups and practiced stress reduction techniques that included yoga, deep breathing, and meditation.

The other 25 men involved with the study made no lifestyle changes over the course of the 5-year period.

At the end of the study, researchers found that the 10 men who made lifestyle changes were able to lengthen their telomeres significantly by 10%. However, the men who did not make lifestyle changes experienced a 3% reduction in telomeres length.

In conclusion, the study authors state that the lengthening of telomeres can prolong life and improve a person’s health while also lowering the risk for life-threatening diseases. This breakthrough finding will likely to lead to additional larger studies that will confirm the link between aging and the length of telomeres.