Aging gracefully through exercise

December 1, 2010, Tel Aviv University
Aging gracefully through exercise

Working out can help you shed pounds -- but that's just the beginning. New research from Tel Aviv University has found that "endurance exercises," like a Central Park jog or a spinning class, can make us look younger. The key, exercise, unlocks the stem cells of our muscles.

Prof. Dafna Benayahu and her team at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine say their findings explain for the first time why older people who have exercised throughout their lives age more gracefully. They have discovered how endurance exercise increases the number of muscle and enhances their ability to rejuvenate old muscles. The researchers hope their finding can lead to a new drug to help the elderly and immobilized heal their muscles faster.

The muscles and in our bodies work together, explains Prof. Benayahu. "When we age, we experience sarcopenia, a decline in mass and function of muscles, and osteopenia referrers to ," she says. As a result, our is more susceptible to daily wear and tear, which also explains the increased risk of falling in the elderly.

Investigating a rat population, Dr. Gabi Shefer from the research team says that the finding shows that exercise increased the number of satellite cells (muscle stem cells) — a number which normally declines with aging. The researchers believe that a decline in the number of these cells and their functionality may prevent proper maintenance of muscle mass and its ability to repair itself, leading to muscle deterioration.

Comparing the performance of rats of different ages and sexes, they found that the number of satellite cells increased after rats ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for a 13-week period. The younger rats showed a 20% to 35% increase in the average number of stem cells per muscle fiber retained — and older rats benefited even more significantly, exhibiting a 33% to 47% increase in stem cells.

Endurance exercise also improved the levels of "spontaneous locomotion" — the feeling that tells our bodies to just get up and dance — of old rats. Aging is typically associated with a reduced level of spontaneous locomotion.

The combination of aging and a sedentary lifestyle significantly contributes to the development of diseases such as osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as well as a decline in cognitive abilities. If researchers can discover a method to "boost" satellite cells in our muscles, that could simulate the performance of young and healthy muscles — and hold our aging bones in place.

"We hope to understand the mechanisms for the activation codes of muscle stem cells at the molecular level," says Prof. Benayahu. "With this advance, we can let ourselves dream about creating a new drug for humans — one that could increase mass and ameliorate the negative effects of aging."

More information: The results of the study were recently published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Calcium and Vitamin D supplements are not associated with risk of heart attacks

February 16, 2018
New research from the University of Southampton has found no association between the use of calcium or vitamin D supplementation and cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Women who clean at home or work face increased lung function decline

February 16, 2018
Women who work as cleaners or regularly use cleaning sprays or other cleaning products at home appear to experience a greater decline in lung function over time than women who do not clean, according to new research published ...

Study shows options to decrease risk of motor vehicle crashes for adolescent drivers

February 16, 2018
Adolescents who receive comprehensive and challenging on-road driving assessments prior to taking the license test might be protected from future motor vehicle crashes, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham study ...

Being a single dad can shorten your life: study

February 15, 2018
The risk of dying prematurely more than doubles for single fathers compared to single mothers or paired-up dads, according to a study of Canadian families published Thursday.

Keeping an eye on the entire ageing process

February 15, 2018
Medical researchers often only focus on a single disease. As older people often suffer from multiple diseases at the same time, however, we need to rethink this approach, writes Ralph Müller.

Study suggests possible link between highly processed foods and cancer

February 14, 2018
A study published by The BMJ today reports a possible association between intake of highly processed ("ultra-processed") food in the diet and cancer.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

RobertKarlStonjek
not rated yet Dec 02, 2010
"...a spinning class..."
is that one of the elderly ladies in the photograph?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.