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Fitness & Health

02nd Sep 2019

New study proves it’s never too late to start hitting the gym

It's never too late to start hitting the gym. Research shows people with no training experience still have the same ability to build muscle and strength

Alex Roberts

It’s never too late to start exercising – you can make serious gains at any age

According to a new study from the University of Birmingham, older people who’ve never previously followed a gym workout programme have the same ability to build muscle as those of a similar age with lots of strength training experience.

This proves that lifting weights isn’t just for people who fancy themselves as the next Mr. Olympia. It provides a myriad of functional and health-protecting properties too.

In the study, scientists separated participants into two groups:

  • ‘Master athletes’: people over the age of 70 who had lifted weights all their life, and continued to do so
  • The second group consisted of healthy people at a similar age, but who had never participated in structured gym workout programmes

How was muscle growth measured?

Each person involved was given an isotope tracer, which shows how proteins develop in the muscle cell. They were also given a muscle biopsy in the 48 hours before and after hitting the gym. This was looking for signs of muscle damage, and other indicators of muscle growth.

While scientists expected master athletes to have an easier time building muscle, the results didn’t show that. Data actually showed that both groups were building mass at an equal rate.

Dr. Leigh Breen, one of the chief scientists involved, said:

“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.

“Obviously a long term commitment to good health and exercise is the best approach to achieve whole-body health, but even starting later on in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness.”

Although this study was conducted in a gym using traditional resistance machinery and equipment, Dr. Breen says other lifestyle habits can all be tweaked to boost fitness and strength.

He said: “Even outside of a gym-setting, activities undertaken in their homes – such as gardening, walking up and down stairs, or lifting up a shopping bag can all help if undertaken as part of a regular exercise regime.”

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