Never Too Late: Seniors Who Rarely Exercise Benefit From Gym As Much As Life-Long Athletes

BIRMINGHAM, England — If you’ve been avoiding the gym because you feel like you should have gotten started years ago, a new study conducted in England may be just the extra bit of motivation you’re looking for. Researchers from The University of Birmingham have found that seniors who have never committed to a long-term fitness regimen can still build the same amount of muscle mass as a seasoned athlete around the same age.

According to the study’s findings, even those who have avoided exercise their entire lives greatly benefit from starting a resistance exercise and weight training routine at an older age.

Researchers examined muscle-building abilities among two groups of men between the ages of 70-80. The first group consisted of “master athletes” who have been working out consistently their whole lives and still compete at a high level in their sport of choice. The other group was full of generally healthy men around the same age who had never committed to a long-term exercise routine.

Each participant was given an isotope tracer, or a chemical to help researchers observe how proteins developed within each man’s muscles. Then, each man did some exercising, either via weights or an exercise machine. Muscle biopsies were taken 48 hours before and after each exercise session, and researchers studied each muscle group to see how it responded to the exercise.

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It was expected that the more athletic experimental group would display a greater ability to build muscle mass, but the results showed that both groups had just as much ability as the other to build muscle.

“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,” explains lead researcher, Dr Leigh Breen in a release. “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.

Dr. Breen also cited simple activities such as gardening or carrying grocery bags as great ways for older individuals to get started with resistance training without venturing to the gym.

The study is published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Physiology.

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