It is well known that physical activity helps to improve physical and mental function. It is also known to reverse some effects of chronic disease.
A new study shows that lifelong physical activity could protect against age-related loss of muscle mass and function. Scientists from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, found that elderly individuals who keep physically active had enough muscle stem cells throughout their adult life. These stem cells contribute to muscle regeneration and long-term growth and protect against nerve decay.
In simple words, lifelong physical activity is the secret to staying young. This is the first study to investigate human muscle, stem cell, and nerve activity.
The study involved 46 male participants, divided into three groups: young sedentary (15), elderly lifelong exercise (16), and elderly sedentary (15). Participants performed a heavy resistance exercise, sitting in a mechanical chair performing a knee extension to evaluate muscle function.
While participants were performing the exercise, scientists measured the amount of force produced. They took blood samples and analyzed muscle biopsies from both legs.
Scientists found that elderly lifelong exercisers outperformed both the elderly and young sedentary adults.
Lead author Casper Soendenbroe, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, said:
“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 aging population. This has been missing from the literature as previous studies have mostly focused on master athletes, a minority group. Our study is more representative of the general population aged 60 and above, as the average person is more likely to participate in a mixture of activities at a moderate level.”
“That’s why we wanted to explore the relation between satellite cell content and muscle health in recreationally active individuals. We can now use this as a biomarker to further investigate the link between exercise, aging, and muscle health.”
“The single most important message from this study is that even a little exercise seems to go a long way when protecting against the age-related decline in muscle function. This is an encouraging finding that can hopefully spur more people to engage in an activity they enjoy. We still have much to learn about the mechanisms and interactions between nerves and muscles and how these change as we age. Our research takes us one step closer.”
Follow-up studies are required to see if the benefits of lifelong exercise are maintained later in life. Further, investigation on recreational activity and muscle health needs to be carried out in females.
- Casper Soendenbroe et al. Preserved stem cell content and innervation profile of elderly human skeletal muscle with lifelong recreational exercise. DOI: 10.1113/JP282677