How exercise keeps you young

By Faeza
31 March 2016


Exercise keeps you young

A University of Guelph professor has uncovered the "secret" to staying strong as we age.

Professor Geoff Power found that elderly people who were elite athletes in their youth or later in life - and who still compete as masters athletes - have much healthier muscles at the cellular level compared to those of non-athletes.

Beat normal ageing

He compared world-class track and field athletes in their 80s with non-athletes of the same age.

The study found that the athletes' legs were 25 per cent stronger on average and had about 14 per cent more total muscle mass.

The athletes also had nearly one-third more motor units in their leg muscles than non-athletes. More motor units means more muscle mass and consequently greater strength.

With normal ageing, the nervous system loses motor neurons, leading to a loss of motor units, reduced muscle mass, less strength, speed and power. That process speeds up substantially after age 60.

You don’t have to be an athlete

"One of the most unique and novel aspects of this study is the exceptional participants," said Prof Power. "These are individuals in their 80s and 90s who actively compete in world masters track and field championships. We have seven world champions. These individuals are thecrème de la crème of ageing."

However, you don’t have to be an athlete to benefit. Prof Powers says that staying active, even later in life, can help reduce muscle loss.