Want Younger Muscles? Exercise

Exploring Intensity

Want Younger Muscles? Exercise

As we age it is harder to keep our weight down, the hair on our heads and our muscles from losing mass. It is simply just part of aging. But a new study points to evidence that we can keep our muscles a little stronger as we age if we do one thing — exercise.

Now, this may seem like a pretty obvious solution, but it hasn’t always been so clear that exercising can truly have such an effective benefit on keeping the muscles younger. The reason? Something called a muscle unit, which is essentially a muscle fiber teamed up with a motor neuron. The neurons die as we age, and the thing that was once telling our muscle fibers to work stops showing up. And that is how we start to lose the muscle mass we would prefer to keep. Neurons may come to the rescue when you’re younger but that happens less and less as we age.

Canadian researchers wanted to see if this could be reversed or at least halted a bit, so they studied 29 athletes who, in their 80s, would still be considered “world-class.” They also found a group of people in the same age range who, while not elite athletes, were still healthy, especially for not being particularly active.

And while it’s no surprise that the athletes had more muscle mass, at the cellular level, they had far more motor neurons steering their muscles compared to those who weren’t hitting the gym multiple times a week.

This doesn’t prove that the athletes were able to keep their muscle units in better shape due to exercise, but it offers a clue to why they had more muscle mass. And, interestingly, many of these senior athletes didn’t start pushing themselves until they were in their 50s. You probably didn’t need a study to tell you that you need to “use it” or “lose it” when it comes to muscle mass. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you that more exercise leads to lower hair loss. Yet.

– S. Mehling