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Building Muscle Mass at Any Age

You are never too old to start strength training.

Older adults building muscle mass

Here’s motivating news for older adults and those who train them. New research shows that older men, even in their 80s, can build muscle mass regardless of training background.

University of Birmingham researchers in England conducted a study to determine whether older masters athletes and untrained adults of similar age differ in their ability to build muscle mass. The research team recruited eight untrained adults and seven masters athletes and measured their muscle responses to exercise after one bout of training.

Data analysis showed that all participants had an equal capacity to build muscle in response to exercise. “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,” said principal investigator Leigh Breen, PhD, senior lecturer, School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Birmingham. “Obviously a long-term commitment to good health and exercise is the best approach to achieve whole-body health, but even starting later in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness.”

Limitations of the study included its small sample size, the subjects all being male and there being just one muscle biopsy testing point after the exercise bout. More research is needed.

The study is in Frontiers in Physiology (2019; doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.01084).

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Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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