Developmental Biology - Aging|
It's Never Too Late to Exercise
Older people who never take part in sustained exercise have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of similar age...
Older people who have never taken part in sustained exercise programs have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of a similar age, according to new research at the University of Birmingham.
The research shows that even those who are entirely unaccustomed to exercise can benefit from resistance exercises such as weight training.
In the study, published in Frontiers in Physiology, researchers in the University of Birmingham's School of Sport and Exercise Science compared muscle-building ability in two groups of older men.
The first group — classed as "master athletes" — were people in their 70s and 80s who are lifelong exercisers and still compete at top levels in their sport.
The second group were healthy individuals of a similar age, who never participated in structured exercise programs.
Each participant was given an isotope tracer, in the form of a drink of 'heavy' water, and then took part in a single bout of exercise, involving weight training on an exercise machine. Researchers took muscle biopsies from each participant in the 48 hour periods just before and just after the exercise, and examined these to look for signs of how the muscles were responding to the exercise. Isotope tracer showed how proteins were developing within the muscle.
Researchers had expected that master athletes would have an increased ability to build muscle due to their superior levels of fitness over a prolonged period of time. In fact, the results showed that both groups had an equal capacity to build muscle in response to exercise.
"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. 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."
Leigh Breen PhD, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom; and lead researcher.
Background: An impaired muscle anabolic response to exercise and protein nutrition is thought to underpin age-related muscle loss, which may be exacerbated by aspects of biological aging that may not be present in older individuals who have undertaken long-term high-level exercise training, or master athletes (MA). The aim of this study was to compare rested-state and exercise-induced rates of integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis (iMyoPS) and intracellular signaling in endurance trained MA and healthy age-matched untrained individuals (Older Controls).
Methods: In a parallel study design, iMyoPS rates were determined over 48 h in the rested-state and following a bout of unaccustomed resistance exercise (RE) in OC (n = 8 males; 73.5 ± 3.3 years) and endurance-trained MA (n = 7 males; 68.9 ± 5.7 years). Intramuscular anabolic signaling was also determined. During the iMyoPS measurement period, physical activity was monitored via accelerometry and dietary intake was controlled.
Results: Anthropometrics, habitual activity, and dietary intake were similar between groups. There was no difference in rested-state rates of iMyoPS between OC (1.47 ± 0.06%·day–1) and MA (1.46 ± 0.08% day–1). RE significantly increased iMyoPS above rest in both OC (1.60 ± 0.08% day–1, P < 0.01) and MA (1.61 ± 0.08%·day–1, P < 0.01), with no difference between groups. AktThr308 phosphorylation increased at 1 h post-RE in OC (P < 0.05), but not MA. No other between-group differences in intramuscular signaling were apparent at any time-point.
Conclusion: While our sample size is limited, these data suggest that rested-state and RE-induced iMyoPS are indistinguishable between MA and OC. Importantly, the OC retain a capacity for RE-induced stimulation of skeletal muscle remodeling.
James McKendry, Brandon J. Shad, Benoit Smeuninx, Sara Y. Oikawa, Gareth Wallis, Carolyn Greig, Stuart M. Phillips and Leigh Breen.
The authors would like to thank Dr. Chang-Hyun Lim for the assistance during data analysis. The authors extend their appreciation to the research participants for their time and effort.
Ethical approval was obtained through the East Midlands – Derby Research Ethics Committee (18/EM/0004) and conformed to the requirements of Research Governance at the University of Birmingham Research Governance, United Kingdom, as the study sponsor.
All authors gave their final approval of the version of the manuscript to be published. JM, CG, SP, and LB designed the study. JM, BJS, GW, and LB organized and carried out the experiments with the assistance of BS. JM, BJS, BS, SO, CG, SP, and LB performed the data analyses. JM and LB performed the statistical analysis of the data. JM, BJS, CG, SP, and LB wrote the manuscript. JM, SP, and LB were the guarantors of this work and took responsibility for the integrity and accuracy of the data analysis.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
JM and BJS are supported by an “Exercise as Medicine” PhD studentship by the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham. BS is a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded postdoctoral research fellow (BB/N018214/1).
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