PhotoAs people age, many have a tendency to write off exercise as something meant for younger people. After all, if you’ve made it to your senior years relatively intact, then you must have been doing something right.

But a new study shows that regular exercise is still very important as we grow older – especially for seniors who may be at greater risk of injury. Researchers have found a connection between physical exercise and the amount of time it takes for muscles to repair themselves in the elderly. Those who exercised more were able to recover much more quickly and regained more muscle mass compared with those who didn’t.

Pre-conditioning the body

The study, which was conducted in part by researchers from McMaster University in Canada, found that exercise provided a level of pre-conditioning that was very important for older bodies. This is especially important because older people can tend to be more sedentary.

“Exercise pre-conditioning may improve the muscle repair response in older adults to stimuli such as acute periods of atrophy/inactivity and/or damage. . . Exercise-conditioning rescues delayed skeletal muscle regeneration observed in advanced age,” said Dr. Gianni Parise.

The researchers observed these benefits by conducting an experiment on three groups of mice. The groups were made up of old mice who were not exercise-trained, old mice who were exercise-trained, and young mice who were not exercise-trained. After injecting the mice with venom meant to induce muscle injury, the researchers observed the recovery periods for each group.

Faster muscle recovery

The researchers found that the speed of muscle recovery was higher in the group of mice that had been exercise-trained. They posit that the recovery speed was directly linked to the health of muscle satellite cells, which are responsible for healing.

“This is a clean demonstration that the physiological and metabolic benefits of exercise radiate to skeletal muscle satellite cells, the adult stem cells responsible for repair after injury, even in senescent animals. . . Strikingly, even as the contractile elements of muscle tissue wane with age, the capacity of the satellite cells to respond to exercise cues is maintained. This aging-resistant retentive property could be added to the list of features that define adult stem cells,” said Dr. Thoru Pederson.

The full study has been published in The FASEB Journal

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