Never too late to exercise, researchers suggest

Study led by the University of Birmingham has stated that people who undertake a sustained exercise program and well-trained master athletes of the same age have the same ability to build muscle mass.

Moreover, even people who are not used to exercising regularly can benefit from resistance exercises, weight training for instance.

For the study, experts compared two groups of older men based on their muscle-building ability. They were in their 70s and 80s. While the first group belonged to ‘master athletes’, who were regular exercisers, competing in top level sports, the second group had healthy individuals, but had never participated in structured exercise programs.

Furthermore, every participant was given an isotope tracer, a type of ‘heavy’ water drink, before they participated in any type of exercise: exercise on a machine or weight training, for instance. Before and after the exercise, muscle biopsies of participants were examined within a 48 hour period. The results were recognized as signs on how muscles were responding to the exercise. By means of the isotope tracer scientists could measure how the proteins were developing within the muscle.

The final results concluded that both the groups had an equal capacity to build muscles corresponding to the exercise. This was unexpected, since experts believed master athletes would demonstrate an increased ability to build muscles, owning to their greater level of fitness, especially over a long period of time.

“Our study clearly shows that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a regular exerciser throughout your life, you can still derive benefit from exercise whenever you start,” commented lead researcher, Dr Leigh Breen. “Obviously a long term commitment to good health and exercise is the best approach to achieve whole-body health, but even starting later on in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness.

“Current public health advice on strength training for older people is often quite vague. What’s needed is more specific guidance on how individuals can improve their muscle strength, even outside of a gym-setting through activities undertaken in their homes – activities such as gardening, walking up and down stairs, or lifting up a shopping bag can all help if undertaken as part of a regular exercise regime,” he added.