46 men participated in the study. They were divided into three groups: sedentary young people (15), elderly people with lifelong exercise (16) and sedentary elderly people (15).
They performed a heavy resistance exercise, sat in a mechanical chair, and performed a knee extension to assess muscle function.
The amount of force generated has been measured. Blood samples were taken and muscle biopsies were analyzed from both legs. Researchers have found Older adults who exercise for life perform better than both sedentary elderly and young adults.
Lead author, Casper Soendenbroe, University of Copenhagen, Denmark said: “This is the first human study to show that lifelong recreational exercise can delay some of the harmful effects of aging. Using biopsies of muscle tissue, we discovered the positive effects of exercise on the general aging population. This has been missing from the literature because previous studies have mainly focused on master athletes, a minority group.“.
This new study is more representative of the general population aged 60 and over, as the general population is more likely to engage in moderate mixed activities. This could be used as a biomarker to further investigate the link between exercise, aging, and muscle health.
The most important message from this study is Even a small amount of exercise has long-term effects, when it comes to protection against age-related decline in muscle function..
This is an encouraging finding that can hopefully motivate more people to engage in an activity they love. Much remains to be learned about the mechanisms and interactions between nerves and muscles and how these change as we age.
Further studies are needed to see if the benefits of lifelong exercise are maintained in later life. Furthermore, an investigation of recreational activity and muscle health in women should be conducted.