A new study was released over the last week showing what many older people already know, that training is a very important part of keeping you young.
The study says resistance exercise for people 65 and older can actually reverse important aging effects on skeletal muscles, to the point where they work genetically like those found in people four decades younger.
“We see big improvements … after training,” said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, an associate professor at the McMaster University Medical Centre.
“Many people were reporting they could pick up their grandkids, they could carry more groceries, it was easier to go up the stairs,” said Tarnopolsky, an expert on muscle diseases and one of the paper’s two lead authors.
There are several reasons for this change and most of it is in the physical changes that take place in the mini powerplants of cells and this, says the good doctor promises to make things better for many people for years to come.
The study looked at DNA expression in the muscle cells of 25 healthy seniors, who had undergone twice-weekly resistance training for six months.
It concentrated in particular on the cellular mitochondria, the “powerhouses” that fuel activity in cells. They are typically depleted in older people, with many of the genes that affect them turned on or off by age. This depletion resulted in a loss of muscle mass and many of the mobility restrictions often found in seniors.
But Tarnopolsky said the genetic “fingerprints” of the exercising seniors actually shifted from their age-altered state to one more closely resembling those found in young men and women in their mid 20s to 30s.
“We improved or reversed to a large extent the … gene signature of aging,” he said.
The reversal was accompanied by a 50 per cent improvement in strength among the seniors.
Starting out about 60 per cent weaker than their younger study counterparts – determined via knee extension capacity – the training seniors ended up 38 per cent weaker after a half year of training.
Tarnopolsky said lifting might remove some of the mitochondria damaged by age-related stresses, replacing them with genetically intact ones. As well, it may turn on genes, switched off by age, that offer muscle cells protection from damage.
This is a very interesting although small study but the ramifications are huge. Anyone that is in there 60s or 70s though should talk to a doctor before beginning a lifting regimen but the effects on your life can be fantastic.