Visual Evidence: Chronic Training Effect on Ageing

I recently stumbled across a 2011 study named “Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes“. The authors identify that while there have been numerous studies examining muscle loss in ageing sedentary adults, little has been done to investigate whether the muscle loss commonly associated with the ageing process is a physiological result of muscle ageing, or an reflection of disuse atrophy (muscle wasting through lack of use).

The research methods used MRI cross-sections of numerous different athletes to draw comparisons in body composition and Lean Muscle Mass across ages and activity levels. Some of the images collected tell a powerful story themselves.

40 Year Old Triathlete

40 Year Old Triathlete

74 Year Old Sedentary Male

74 Year Old Sedentary Male

74 Year Old Triathlete

74 Year Old Triathlete

To quote the authors of this study:

“It is commonly believed that with aging comes an inevitable decline from vitality to frailty. This includes feeling weak and often the loss of independence. These declines may have more to do with lifestyle choices, including sedentary living and poor nutrition, than the absolute potential of musculoskeletal aging.

In this study, we sought to eliminate the confounding variables of sedentary living and muscle disuse, and answer the question of what really happens to our muscles as we age if we are chronically active. This study and those discussed here show that we are capable of preserving both muscle mass and strength with lifelong physical activity.”

To conclude, they write:

“The loss of lean muscle mass and the resulting subjective and objective weakness experienced with sedentary aging imposes significant but modifiable personal, societal, and economic burdens. As sports medicine clinicians, we must encourage people to become or remain active at all ages. This study, and those reviewed here, document the possibility to maintain muscle mass and strength across the ages via simple lifestyle changes.”

A real case of “use it or lose it“!

To read the published research article in full, click here.

About The Author 

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.


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