The study, undertaken by researchers at the University of Birmingham in England, pitted lifelong athletes in their 70s and 80s against men of the same age who had never participated in a structured fitness program.
The goal was to find out whether untrained individuals have the capacity to build muscle to the extent that lifelong exercisers can. As noted in Neuroscience News, “The researchers … 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.”
The answer is encouraging, to say the least, as muscle biopsies taken before and after exercise revealed both groups had the identical capacity to build muscle in response to exercise. In a press release, lead researcher 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.”