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Study finds you’re never too old to start exercising

According to new research done at the University of Birmingham, older people who have never followed a strict exercise routine in their lives can build muscle mass in the same way as highly trained master athletes of similar age.

As a part of the study, researchers at the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Science had a look at the muscle-building capabilities of two groups of older men. The first group comprised people in their 70s and 80s who were still competing at top levels in their chosen sport, and had exercised their entire lives – so-called “master athletes” – while the second group was made up of healthy individuals of similar age who had never followed structured exercise programmes.

Participants took an isotope tracer before attempting a bout of weight-training exercise on an exercise machine. Muscle biopsies were taken from the participants in the 48 hours prior to and after the exercise in order to assess how their muscles were responding, and the isotope tracer indicated how proteins developed within the muscle.

Researchers concluded that even people who are older and have never really exercised consistently showed the same muscle-building benefits from resistance exercise like weight training.

Speaking about the study, lead researcher Dr Leigh Breen said that it’s never too late to start exercising and reap the benefits of increased muscle strength.

“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.”

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