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Do These Muscles Look ‘Old’ To You?

Asking if your muscles look old is probably not something you hear every day. Now, you might ask a similar question about your face, your skin, your clothes, or even your car … but, your muscles? Typically, when discussing our muscles, we focus on the size, the shape, or the strength. But, have you ever stopped to wonder what’s going on deep down inside?
We’ve all heard how important exercise is as we age. Including as much movement as possible, functional strength training to enhance activities of daily living, as well as mobility and stability training to keep us safe has become an anthem for those over 40. But, a new research study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn recently found how you put those ingredients together can have a profound effect on your body.
The study divided sedentary men and women into four groups: intense strength training, interval training (riding a bike), moderate cardio and light weights (not in the same workout, on separate days), and non-exercise to study the effects different types of workout regimes had on the body. The results were compared based on modality, as well as age of the exercisers (half were under 30 and the other half were older than 64).
As you would imagine, the muscle gains were most significant in the group that did heavy weightlifting, and the endurance gains were best in the group that did interval training. But, what surprised the scientists, was what they found when they biopsied the muscle cells. The younger interval training group had 274 genes affected (170 genes for moderate cardio and weights and only 74 for the strength training group). But … the older interval training group had almost 400 genes affected and just 33 for strength group and 19 genes for moderate cardio and weights.
But, what’s that got to do with your muscles ‘looking’ old, you say? Glad you asked … the cells that were affected are believed to affect the ability of mitochondria to produce energy for muscle cells. In other words, the decline typically seen in the cellular health of the muscles associated with aging was ‘corrected’ with exercise! And, the more intense the exercise, the better.
Bottom line, get moving early and often. But, even if you’re heading towards retirement and you’ve never exercised, it’s never too late to start and receive the benefits. The amount of time you spend exercising can vary, but push yourself as you can since intensity seems to be the most important part! Finally, you may not ‘see’ the results on the outside, but don’t quit. What’s happening deep down inside is truly magical.

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