Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

As Good As It Gets: Octogenarian Muscles Don't Get Stronger With Exercise, Study Finds

Date:
April 3, 2009
Source:
American Physiological Society
Summary:
Octogenarian women were unable to increase muscle mass after a three-month weight lifting program targeted at strengthening the thigh muscle. The results are surprising because previous studies have found resistance training capable of increasing muscle mass, even for people who are into their 70s. An increase in muscle size translates to an increase in strength.

New research shows that octogenarian women were unable to increase muscle mass after a three-month weight lifting program targeted at strengthening the thigh muscle.
Credit: iStockphoto/David Lewis

Octogenarian women were unable to increase muscle mass after a 3-month weight lifting program targeted at strengthening the thigh muscle, according to a new study from the Journal of Applied Physiology. The results are surprising because previous studies have found resistance training capable of increasing muscle mass, even for people who are into their 70s. An increase in muscle size translates to an increase in strength.

Still, the Ball State University study contained some good news: The octogenarians were able to lift more weight after the training program, likely because the nervous system became more efficient at activating and synchronizing muscles.

The American Physiological Society published the study, “Improvements in whole muscle and myocellular function are limited with high-intensity resistance training in octogenarian women.” The researchers are Ulrika Raue, Dustin Slivka, Kiril Minchev and Scott Trappe.

Aim: Strengthen Octogenarian Thigh Muscle

The experiment involved six women, all in their 80s, all of whom lived independently and came to the laboratory three times a week for three months. The women exercised on a machine designed to strengthen the thigh (quadriceps) muscle. They did three sets of 10 lifts, with a 2-minute rest period between sets.

The researchers measured the size of the women’s thigh muscle using an MRI, before the exercise program began and after it ended. They also took biopsies from the thigh muscles, which they used to track muscle changes at the cellular level.

The biopsies included both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Fast-twitch muscles are high powered and explosive and are associated with anaerobic exercise. Slow-twitch are associated with aerobic tasks, including endurance exercise such as marathons.

Fast-twitch muscles are important in posture and balance and so may be of particular importance for the elderly, who are more prone to falls. When people do not use their muscles during a period of convalescence or with a sedentary lifestyle, the fast twitch muscles lose functionality and atrophy more quickly than slow-twitch.

From the muscle biopsies, the researchers isolated single muscle strands, both fast-twitch and slow-twitch. They measured the strength, speed and power of each fiber and examined the genetic profile of these strands.

No change in muscle strength

As a result of the exercise program, the octogenarians were able to increase the amount they could lift with their quadriceps by 26%. That was the good news. The bad news was that the pre- and post-training MRIs showed that the training did not change their muscle size. This was surprising because an earlier study had found that 70-year-old women gained 5% muscle mass with resistance training.

The biopsy results confirmed the MRI results: there was no change in the size of the individual muscle strands, pre-training versus post-training. This confirms that the increase in the amount the women could lift with the quadriceps was unrelated to improvement in muscle strength. Instead, the results were probably due to improvements in how efficiently the nervous system was able to activate and synchronize the muscles.

In an earlier study, the researchers found that the muscles of octogenarian men also failed to gain strength with the exercise program. Together, the studies show that the muscles of octogenarian men and women are far less responsive to improving with exercise, even compared to people only 10 years younger.

“The message of the study is that exercise is good for octogenarians, just not as good as we thought it would be,” Dr. Trappe said. The study also suggests that it is better to build as much muscle mass as possible earlier in life to ensure more muscle strength in later life. “We should do all we can to educate people to build up the muscle before 80,” he said.

Next steps

Muscle atrophy relates not only to aging, but to people whose muscles are immobilized for a period and even for astronauts who spend long periods of time in space. Dr. Trappe, who also does research on astronauts, next wants to begin to uncover the physiological basis for why the muscles of octogenarians do not gain strength with resistance exercise.

His team may be able to build on two intriguing findings from the current study:

while the octogenarian women had many fewer muscle fibers, the fibers they did have were large and healthy looking

the genes involved in muscle growth are present in the resting muscle of the octogenarians at much higher levels compared to young people.

These results suggest that the octogenarian muscle is already operating at peak capacity and may not have the potential for better performance, Dr. Trappe said. If these mechanisms can be understood, it may be possible to find ways to strengthen older muscles.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Physiological Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Raue et al. Improvements in Whole Muscle and Myocellular Function are Limited with High-Intensity Resistance Training in Octogenarian Women. Journal of Applied Physiology, 2009; DOI: 10.1152/japplphysiol.91587.2008

Cite This Page:

American Physiological Society. "As Good As It Gets: Octogenarian Muscles Don't Get Stronger With Exercise, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 April 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331091250.htm>.
American Physiological Society. (2009, April 3). As Good As It Gets: Octogenarian Muscles Don't Get Stronger With Exercise, Study Finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331091250.htm
American Physiological Society. "As Good As It Gets: Octogenarian Muscles Don't Get Stronger With Exercise, Study Finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090331091250.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins