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It's never too late to start exercising

Older people who have never participated in long-term exercise programs have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained master athletes of the same age, according to new research from the University of Birmingham. The research shows that even those who are not used to exercising at all can benefit from resistance exercises such as weight training.

In the study, researchers compared muscle-building ability in two groups of older men. The first group was classified as "master athletes" - people who were lifelong athletes in the 1970s and 80s and still compete at the top level in their sport. The second included healthy individuals of a similar age who had never participated in structured training programs.

Each participant was given an isotope tracer, in the form of a sip of 'heavy' water, and then took part in an exercise, training on a machine. The researchers took muscle biopsies from participants in the 48-hour periods just before and just after exercise and examined them to look for signs of how the muscles were responding to the exercise. The isotope tracer showed how proteins developed in the muscles.

The researchers had expected that the elite athletes would have an increased ability to build muscle due to their superior fitness level over an extended period of time. In fact, the results showed that both groups had an equal ability to build muscle in response to exercise.

"Our study clearly shows that it doesn't matter if you haven't been a regular exerciser throughout your life, you can still benefit from exercise when you start," said the lead researcher. “It's clear that a long-term commitment to good health and exercise is the best way to achieve full-body health, but starting even later in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness.