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Scientists have figured out how much exercise is needed to keep your cells youthful

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Photo: Tim Gibson for Well+Good

Imagine if every time you hit up a Barry’s Bootcamp class, you not only left class sweatier and stronger, but also a little younger.

Turns out, 30 heart-pumping minutes a day could keep the aging away. According to a new study in Preventative Medicine, people who exercised frequently were found to have biological aging markers that appeared up to nine years younger than those who were less active, Time reports. The more people performed vigorous workouts, the slower their cells appeared to age.

“Moderate exercise was still valuable and it had some benefit, but it was really those high levels of physical activity that made the real difference.”

The multi-year study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, collected DNA samples and looked at the length of the telomeres (markers of aging and overall health) in 6,000 adults. Telomeres get shorter with age, and researchers found that the telomeres in people who exercised often were significantly longer than their sedentary counterparts.

So how much exercise do you actually need to Benjamin Button your own aging process?

To qualify as a “top-tier exerciser,” people in the study had to complete at least 30–40 minutes of jogging a day, five days a week. “Moderate exercise was still valuable and it had some benefit, but it was really those high levels of physical activity that made the real difference,” study author Larry Tucker, professor of exercise science at Brigham Young University, told Time. And he says the link between physical activity and cellular aging is a no brainer, since telomere length may be linked to inflammation and oxidative stress—and exercise helps curb both over time.

“We all know people who seem younger than their actual age,” Tucker says. “We know exercise can help with that, and now we know that part of that may be because of its effect on our telomeres.” So the next time you hit the wall, remind yourself that it’s hard for a reason—you might just be turning back time.

To get into “top-tier exerciser” mode, here’s how to hack your gym workout to give it boutique-level intensity—or try these Tone It Up moves for a full-body burn.