While the basic biology of all people, old or young, is about the same, something is causing senior citizens to not participate in professional sports. So what happens to a person’s muscles as they get older?
What we have discovered in our research is that in muscle that is young, a small amount of exercise develops a strong signal to all the processes that cause muscle growth. The muscles in older people, the signal telling the muscles to grow is a lot weaker for a certain amount of exercise. These changes start to happen when a person reaches about 50 years old and becomes weaker as time goes on.
We did a study to find out if changes in the signaling came with any changes to genes and how many react to exercise. Using a method that made it possible for us to measure the changes in thousands of genes caused by resistance training, we discovered that when the younger people exercise, it causes changes in over 150 genes. When we studied the older men, we seen changes in only forty-two genes. The difference in gene expression explains the variations between how old and young people are effected by strength training.
Staying fit as you age
When you connect the many molecular differences in how older people are effected by strength training, the answer is that older people don’t increase in muscle mass as well as young people.
But this reality shouldn’t keep older individuals from exercising. If anything, it should encourage them to exercise a lot more as they get older.
Exercise is still one of the most important things older people can do to stay healthy. The work we have done plainly shows that even though the effects to training are less with age, they’re not reduced to zero.
While people that are younger may build larger muscles much quicker and get stronger than older people, older people still get very important health benefits from working out, including physical function, reduced disability, and improved strength. So the next time you are sweating while working out, remember that you are increasing muscle strength which is important to keeping your mobility and good health during your lifetime.