Popular workout benefits ageing muscles

New La Trobe University research has found an exercise program popular among fitness fanatics can optimise ageing muscles in seniors.

La Trobe researcher analysed the impact of high intensity training on the muscle health of a group of people aged 68 to 76.

The group completed a Victoria-University-designed program that involved training three times a week for 12 weeks. At each session, participants completed four bouts of four-minute high intensity training on an exercise bike, with four minutes of rest in between each bout.

At the end of the 12 weeks, La Trobe researchers used muscle fibres obtained from biopsied tissue from each participant to investigate their mitochondria – the powerhouse of cells responsible for producing energy.

The researchers then compared the results from the older group to those from a group of men and women in their 20s who were involved in a similar study.

Dr Robyn Murphy, a muscle expert and the Head of Biochemistry and Genetics at La Trobe, said the study showed high intensity training had a similar effect on the muscle health of both groups.

“Our study found the mitochondria in the muscles of older people increased at the same rate as reported in young people, by around 40 per cent, after 12 weeks of high intensity training,” Dr Murphy said.

“Mitochondria become less efficient as people age. By increasing the amount of mitochondria in the cells of our muscles, our bodies are better able to use oxygen and that improves fitness.

“Our study also found that after 12 weeks, two key proteins in the older people were lowered to the same levels as the younger group. These proteins may have increased to keep the mitochondria healthy in the older people. We suspect high intensity training not only increases mitochondria, but also results in healthier mitochondria.

“Our findings prove that older people are able to adapt to high intensity training and achieve comparable health benefits to people who are up to 50 years younger than them.”

The findings come as no surprise to Northcote YMCA personal trainer Frances Scarrott who runs an over 50s exercise class at the Northcote Aquatic and Recreation Centre.

“Darebin Council and YMCA work closely together for improved health outcomes for the local community that includes this targeted age group, with targeted physical exercise programs and social connection opportunities.”

La Trobe Honorary Visiting Fellow Dr Victoria Wyckelsma and collaborators from Victoria and Monash University were also involved in the research published in the Journal of Physiology.

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