It’s generally understood that in the course of the aging process, the body begins to decay. The hard and soft tissue structures gradually deteriorate, and physical activity capacity becomes limited. According to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2011; 25 [1], 1–9), age-related sarcopenia may not have to be a necessary component of the aging process. The study was designed to determine the effects of resistance exercise on serum hormones and molecules in younger and older men. At baseline, blood and muscle samples were taken from the subjects.

The subjects then completed 3 sets of 10 repetitions at 80% of 1 repetition maximum of the following exercises: Smith squat, leg press and leg extension. Blood and muscle samples were taken at 5 minutes postexercise and again 24 hours later. The younger men showed greater levels of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1, a hormone associated with muscle growth) than older men at all times. On the other hand, the older males presented with higher levels of gene expressions linked to age-related muscular degeneration. However, at 24 hours postexercise, IGF-1 had significantly increased in the older group. The researchers were hopeful that continued study “can help elucidate modifications to resistance exercise training to optimize results and ultimately help fitness professionals and clinicians better understand muscle physiology with exercise and advancing age.”

Jade Teta, ND, CSCS, co-owner of Metabolic Effect in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, suggests that those exercise protocols are already in practice. “This shows decreased growth hormones in the elderly may not be as related to aging as we thought,” he says. “The real fountain of youth lies in the zealous pursuit of weight training, which—when done correctly—is also aerobic in nature. The muscle-building and hormone-producing effects of weight training hold the true potential to halt the aging process.”