Exercise may be the simple solution for rescuing seniors’ lost and injured muscle

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Exercise may have some surprising benefits for seniors who experience muscle injury and loss as they age.

Researchers at McMaster have found that physical activity can help repair and regenerate damaged muscle in the elderly.

The findings challenge what is generally seen as an inevitable fact of life: that muscle atrophy and damage cannot be completely repaired in old age and in some cases lost altogether.

Researchers compared and analyzed the capacity for muscle repair in a group of young mice, a group of old sedentary mice and a group of old exercise-trained mice.

“The world’s older population is rapidly growing and preventing muscle loss and promoting muscle repair is paramount to preserve health,” says Gianni Parise, lead author of the study and an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster.

“These findings suggest that age-related compromised muscle repair can be rescued with regular exercise,” he says.

After eight weeks of exercise, researchers found the old mice were able to repair and rebuild muscle more quickly following injury when compared to the old mice which had not exercised.

And after a period of 28 days, muscle repair was comparable to that of young mice. Old mice that had not exercised did not fully recover.

The findings suggest that exercise can be used as a preventative measure in older adults who lose muscle rapidly when their activity levels fall, which can happen for a variety of reasons, including illness or extended hospital stays.

“Quite simply, this demonstrates the importance of remaining active throughout life,” says Parise. “Regular exercise can preserve basic processes that govern muscle health.”

The research was published in the FASEB Journal.