Ageing muscles don’t get bulkier but stronger with exercise

March 31st, 2009 - 4:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 31 (IANS) Women in their eighties were unable to increase muscle mass even after a three-month weight lifting programme targeted at strengthening the thigh muscle, according to a new study.
The results are surprising because previous studies have found that resistance training is capable of increasing muscle mass, even for people who are into their 70s. An increase in muscle size translates into increased strength.

Still, the Ball State University (BSU) study contained some good news - the octogenarians were able to lift more weight after the training programme, likely because the nervous system became more efficient at activating and synchronising muscles.

The experiment involved six women, all in their 80s, all of whom lived independently and came to the lab three times a week for three months.

The women exercised on a machine designed to strengthen the thigh (quadriceps) muscle. They did three sets of 10 lifts, with a two minute rest period between sets.

These octogenarians were able to increase the amount they could lift with their quadriceps by 26 percent. That was the good news. The bad news was that the pre and post-training MRIs showed that the training did not change their muscle size.

This was surprising because an earlier study had found that 70-year-old women gained five percent muscle mass with resistance training, said a BSU release.

These findings were published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

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