It's NEVER too late to start exercising, study finds


It’s NEVER too late to start exercising: People in their 70s and 80s who have skipped the gym their entire lives can gain muscle just as much as ‘athletes’ of a similar age

  • Researchers compared muscle-building ability in two groups of elderly men 
  • They took muscle samples from participants before and just after the exercise 
  • Elderly people who had never done any structured exercise still benefited
  • They had the same ability to build muscle as ‘master athletes’ of the same age

Taking up exercise in your 70s or 80s can still have major benefits – even after a lifetime on the couch.

Experts at the University of Birmingham found elderly people who had never done structured exercise before still benefited from sessions in the gym.

And they had the same ability to build their muscles as highly-trained master athletes of the same age.

Researchers said the findings showed it is never too late to get fit – and even walking up the stairs or pottering around the garden can have benefits.

In the study, published in the Frontiers in Physiology journal, researchers compared muscle-building ability in two groups of elderly men.

The research shows that even those who are entirely unaccustomed to exercise can benefit from resistance exercises such as weight training

The research shows that even those who are entirely unaccustomed to exercise can benefit from resistance exercises such as weight training

The first group were classed as ‘master athletes’ – seven men in their 70s and 80s who are lifelong exercisers and still competing at top levels in their sport.

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In the second group were eight healthy individuals of a similar age, who had never participated in structured exercise programmes.

Each participant was given an isotope tracer, in the form of a drink of ‘heavy’ water, and then took part in a single bout of exercise, involving weight training on an exercise machine.

The researchers took muscle samples from participants in the 48 hour periods just before and just after the exercise, and examined these to look for signs of how the muscles were responding to the exercise.

The isotope tracer showed how proteins were developing within the muscle.

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.

In fact, the results showed that both groups had an equal capacity to build muscle in response to exercise.

Research leader Dr Leigh Breen said: ‘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.

‘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.

‘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 down stairs, or lifting up a shopping bag can all help if undertaken as part of a regular exercise regime.’  

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HOW MUCH EXERCISE DO YOU NEED TO DO?

To stay healthy, adults aged 19 to 64 should try to be active daily and should do:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and
  • strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

A good rule is that 1 minute of vigorous activity provides the same health benefits as 2 minutes of moderate activity.

One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.

All adults should also break up long periods of sitting with light activity.

Source: NHS 



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