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Lifelong exercise may be the secret to staying young

According to a recent study from The Physiological Society, one of the best ways to keep your muscles healthy is to have a lifetime of physical activity. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen analyzed muscle, stem cell, and nerve activity in 46 males. The experts concluded that older, active adults with a history of lifelong exercise have better functioning muscles compared to younger adults with a sedentary lifestyle.

For the investigation, the participants were separated into three groups: young sedentary (15), elderly lifelong exercise (16), and elderly sedentary (15). As the individuals executed a heavy resistance exercise, the researchers measured their force during the movement and took blood and muscle samples. 

Older, active adults with a lifelong history of exercise performed better on the exercise, and also had more satellite cells in their muscles. These cell types protect the nervous system and are essential for muscle regeneration.

The study authors noted that previous studies like this one have only been focused on professional athletes.

“This is the first study in humans to find that lifelong exercise at a recreational level could delay some detrimental effects of aging. Using muscle tissue biopsies, we’ve found positive effects of exercise on the general ageing population. This has been missing from the literature as previous studies have mostly focused on master athletes, which is a minority group,” explained lead author Casper Soendenbroe.

“Our study is more representative of the general population aged 60 and above, as the average person is more likely to take part in a mixture of activities at a moderate level.”

The researchers us to know that we don’t have to be super athletes to make a difference in our health. Participating in activities like swimming, biking, or running throughout our lifetime can help protect our muscles against age-related deterioration. 

However, more research is necessary to support a broad conclusion. Most noteworthy is that this study only involved male subjects, which is an obvious limitation as it excludes about 50 percent of the human population. 

Moreover, the average age of the males in the study was 73. However, the most apparent effects of aging on the muscles occur at 80+ years. Therefore, we don’t yet know if individuals would continue to see the benefits of lifelong exercise as they get older. 

The study is published in The Journal of Physiology.

By Erin Moody , Staff Writer

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