The fountain of youth is real and its name is exercise, according to a new study out of the University of Copenhagen.
Researchers there found that older adults who remained physically active had muscles that were more resistant to fatigue and, importantly, had more stem cells, which help to regenerate muscles.
Exercise: the real fountain of youth
The researchers studied 46 older men with an average age of 73 and placed them into one of three categories: young sedentary males (15), elderly lifelong exercise (16), and elderly sedentary (15).
During the study, each participant used a mechanical chair to perform knee extensions. The researchers measured the force each man produced before taking blood samples and muscle biopsies from both legs.
The results revealed that the elderly lifelong exercisers outperformed both groups of sedentary men. These active men also had a higher number of muscle stem cells in their bodies, which play major roles in muscle regeneration and growth, and also protect the nerves.
“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, which is a minority group,” says lead author Casper Soendenbroe in a media release.
Exercising for just three seconds a day is enough to increase your strength
A team from a Japanese and an Australian university took 39 healthy college students and had the perform a single bicep curl at max effort for three seconds a day, for five days a week over four weeks. These students did their curls in one of three different ways: one group performed an isometric hold, while two others performed a concentric or eccentric bicep curl.
Researchers measured each person’s maximum voluntary contraction strength before and after the weightlifting program, and also compared their results to those of a group of 13 students who did not exercise at all for those four weeks.
Interestingly, the results show that performing just one eccentric bicep curl every day led to the greatest increases in muscle strength. As you might imagine, the group not exercising did not see any benefits.
“The study results suggest that a very small amount of exercise stimulus – even 60 seconds in four weeks – can increase muscle strength,” says lead researcher Professor Ken Nosaka from ECU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, in a university release.
“Many people think you have to spend a lot of time exercising, but it’s not the case. Short, good quality exercise can still be good for your body and every muscle contraction counts.”
Click here to read more about this fascinating study
“Our study is more representative of the general population aged 60 and above, as the average person is more likely to take part 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 it comes to protecting against the age-related decline in muscle function. This is an encouraging finding which can hopefully spur more people to engage in an activity that 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,” the researcher concludes.
The study’s authors note that they still want to examine the impact of lifelong exercise on people over 80. They also think that future studies should look at the relationship between recreational activity and muscle health among women.
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