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An elderly woman doing physical exercise [Photo/shutterstock.com]

New research has revealed that elderly people who have never taken part in continuous exercise have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained athletes of similar age.

The study conducted at the University of Birmingham and published in the Frontiers in Physiology stated that the older people who are not used to exercise can benefit from resistance exercise such as weight training.

“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 downstairs, or lifting up a shopping bag can all help if undertaken as part of a regular exercise regime,” said lead researcher, Dr Leigh Breen.

In the research, scientists compared muscle-building ability in two groups of older males. The first group that comprised of people in their 70s and 80s who were lifelong exercisers and classified as the ‘master athletes.’ While the second category were healthy elderly people of the same age but never participated in structured exercise programs.

The participants were given a drink of heavy water and took part in a single session of exercise that involved weight training on an exercise machine.

The scientists examined how the muscles were responding to the exercise in a 48-hour period just before and after the sessions. The isotope tracer showed how proteins were developing within the muscle.

The results showed that both groups of the participants had an equal capacity to build muscle in response to exercise contrary to what the researchers had expected that, the master athletes would have an increased ability to build muscle due to their superior levels of fitness over a prolonged period of time.

Healthy exercises

“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,” said Dr Breen.

“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,” he added.

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Brenda Gamonde is reporter with Business Today. Email: [email protected]

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