Archive for the ‘Muscle Size’ Category

Researchers at The University of Auckland have shown for the first time that the mere presence of carbohydrate solution in the mouth immediately boosts muscle strength, even before it is swallowed.

The results suggest that a previously unknown neural pathway is activated when receptors in the mouth detect carbohydrate, stimulating parts of the brain that control muscle activity and producing an increase in muscle strength.

Previous research had shown that the presence of carbohydrate in the mouth can improve physical performance during prolonged activity, but the mechanism involved was not known and it was unclear whether a person must be fatigued for the effect to be seen.

“There appears to be a pathway in the brain that tells our muscles when energy is on the way,” says lead researcher Dr Nicholas Gant from the Department of Sport and Exercise Science.

“We have shown that carbohydrate in the mouth produces an immediate increase in neural drive to both fresh and fatigued muscle and that the size of the effect is unrelated to the amount of glucose in the blood or the extent of fatigue.”

The current research has been published in the journal Brain Research and has also captured the attention of New Scientist magazine.

In the first of two experiments, 16 healthy young men who had been doing biceps exercises for 11 minutes were given a carbohydrate solution to drink or an identically flavored energy-free placebo. Their biceps strength was measured before and immediately afterward, as was the activity of the brain pathway known to supply the biceps.

Around one second after swallowing the drink, neural activity increased by 30 percent and muscle strength two percent, with the effect lasting for around three minutes. The response was not related to the amount of glucose in the bloodstream or how fatigued the participants were.

“It might not sound like much, but a two percent increase in muscle strength is enormous, especially at the elite level. It’s the difference between winning an Olympic medal or not,” says co-author Dr Cathy Stinear.

As might be expected, a second boost in muscle strength was observed after 10 minutes when carbohydrate reached the bloodstream and muscles through digestion, but no additional boost in neural activity was seen at that time.

“Two quite distinct mechanisms are involved,” says Dr Stinear. “The first is the signal from the mouth via the brain that energy is about to be available and the second is when the carbohydrate actually reaches the muscles and provides that energy,” says Dr Stinear.

“The carbohydrate and placebo solutions used in the experiment were of identical flavor and sweetness, confirming that receptors in the mouth can process other sensory information aside from the basic taste qualities of food. The results suggest that detecting energy may be a sixth taste sense in humans,” says Dr Gant.

In the second experiment, 17 participants who had not been doing exercise and were not fatigued simply held one of the solutions in their mouths without swallowing. Measurements of the muscle between the thumb and index finger were taken while the muscle was either relaxed or active.

A similar, though smaller effect was observed as in the first experiment, with a nine percent increase in neural activity produced by the carbohydrate solution compared with placebo. This showed that the response is seen in both large powerful muscles and in smaller muscles responsible for fine hand movements.

“Together the results show that carbohydrate in the mouth activates the neural pathway whether or not muscles are fatigued. We were surprised by this, because we had expected that the response would be part of the brain’s sophisticated system for monitoring energy levels during exercise,” says Dr Stinear.

“Seeing the same effect in fresh muscle suggests that it’s more of a simple reflex – part of our basic wiring – and it appears that very ancient parts of the brain such as the brainstem are involved. Reflexive movements in response to touch, vision and hearing are well known but this is the first time that a reflex linking taste and muscle activity has been described,” she says.

Further research is required to determine the precise mechanisms involved and to learn more about the size of the effect on fresh versus fatigued muscle.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Pauline Curtis
The University of Auckland

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“No pain, no gain.” So say those working out to build up their muscles, and on a cellular level it is a pretty accurate description of how muscle mass increases. Exercise causes tears in muscle membrane and the healing process produces an increased amount of healthy muscle. Implicit in this scenario is the notion that muscle repair is an efficient and ongoing process in healthy individuals. However, the repair process is not well understood. New University of Iowa research into two types of muscular dystrophy now has opened the door on a muscle repair process and identified a protein that plays a critical role.

The protein, called dysferlin, is mutated in two distinct muscular dystrophies known as Miyoshi Myopathy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2b. The UI study suggests that in these diseases, the characteristic, progressive muscle degeneration is due to a faulty muscle-repair mechanism rather than an inherent weakness in the muscle’s structural integrity. The research findings reveal a totally new cellular cause of muscular dystrophy and may lead to many discoveries about normal muscle function and to therapies for muscle disorders.

The research team led by Kevin Campbell, Ph.D., the Roy J. Carver Chair of Physiology and Biophysics and interim head of the department, UI professor of neurology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator, studied the molecular consequences of losing dysferlin and discovered that without dysferlin muscles were unable to heal themselves.

The UI team genetically engineered mice to lack the dysferlin gene. Just like humans with Miyoshi Myopathy and limb-girdle muscular dystrophy type 2b, the mice developed a muscular dystrophy, which gets progressively worse with age. However, treadmill tests revealed that the muscles of mice that lack dysferlin were not much more susceptible to damage than the muscles of normal mice. This contrasts with most muscular dystrophies of known cause where genetic mutations weaken muscle membranes and make muscles more prone to damage.

“This told us that the dystrophies caused by dysferlin loss were very different in terms of how the disease process works compared to other dystrophies we have studied,” Campbell said. “We were gradually picking up clues that showed we had a different type of muscular dystrophy here.”

Most muscular dystrophy causing genetic mutations have been linked to disruption of a large protein complex that controls the structural integrity of muscle cells. The researchers found that dysferlin was not associated with this large protein complex. Rather, dysferlin is normally found throughout muscle plasma membrane and also in vesicles, which are small membrane bubbles that encapsulate important cellular substances and ferry them around cells. Vesicles also are important for moving membrane around in cells.

Previous studies have shown that resealing cell membranes requires the accumulation and fusing of vesicles to repair the damaged site.

Using an electron microscope to examine muscles lacking dysferlin, the UI team found that although vesicles gathered at damaged membrane sites, the membrane was not resealed. In contrast, the team discovered that when normal muscle is injured, visible “patches” form at the damaged sites, which seal the holes in the membrane. Chemicals that tag dysferlin proved that these “patches” were enriched with dysferlin and the patches appeared to be formed by the fusion of dysferlin-containing vesicles that traveled though the cell to the site of membrane damage.

The researchers then used a high-powered laser and a special dye to visualize the repair process in real time.

Under normal conditions, the dye is unable to penetrate muscle membrane. However, if the membrane is broken the dye can enter the muscle fiber where it fluoresces. Using the laser to damage a specific area of muscle membrane, the researchers could watch the fluorescence increase as the dye flowed into the muscle fiber.

“The more dye that entered, the more fluorescence we saw,” Campbell explained. “However, once the membrane was repaired, no more dye could enter and the level of fluorescence remained steady. Measuring the increase in fluorescence let us measure the amount of time that the membrane stayed open before repair sealed the membrane and prevented any more dye from entering.”

In the presence of calcium, normal membrane repaired itself in about a minute. In the absence of calcium, vesicles gathered at the damaged muscle membrane, but they did not fuse with each other or with the membrane and the membrane was not repaired. In muscle that lacked dysferlin, even in the presence of calcium, the damaged site was not repaired.

Campbell speculated that dysferlin, which contains calcium-binding regions, may be acting as a calcium sensor and that the repair system needs to sense the calcium in order to initiate the fusion and patching of the hole. Campbell added that purifying the protein and testing its properties should help pin down its role in the repair process.

The discovery of a muscle repair process and of dysferlin’s role raises many new questions. In particular, Campbell wonders what other proteins might be involved and whether defects in those components could be the cause of other muscular dystrophies.

“This work has described a new physiological mechanism in muscle and identified a component of this repair process,” Campbell said. “What is really exciting for me is the feeling that this is just a little hint of a much bigger picture.”

In addition to Campbell, the UI researchers included Dimple Bansal, a graduate student in Campbell’s laboratory and the lead author of the paper, Severine Groh, Ph.D., and Chien-Chang Chen, Ph.D., both UI post-doctoral researchers in physiology and biophysics and neurology, and Roger Williamson, M.D., UI professor of obstetrics and gynecology. Also part of the research team were Katsuya Miyake, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher, and Paul McNeil, Ph.D., a professor of cellular biology and anatomy at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Ga., and Steven Vogel, Ph.D., at the Laboratory of Molecular Physiology at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, Rockville, Md.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Jennifer Brown
University of Iowa 

The study was funded by a grant from the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.

Scientists may soon be able to influence muscle formation more easily as a result of research conducted in the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases’ Laboratory of Muscle Biology. The researchers there and at institutions in California and Italy have found that inhibitors of the enzyme deacetylase can switch the pathway of muscle precursor cells (myoblasts) from simply reproducing themselves to becoming mature cells that form muscle fibers (myotubules).

It has been known for some time that deacetylase prevents the skeletal muscle gene from being expressed, which inhibits myoblasts from forming muscle. The research team has found that under certain conditions, deacetylase inhibitors (DIs) in myoblasts enhance muscle gene expression and muscle fiber formation.

Knowledge of how DIs act against deacetylase is providing important insights on potential ways to correct problems that occur during embryonic muscle development. This research may also lead to methods to induce muscle growth, regeneration and repair in adults.

Simona Iezzi, Ph.D., and Vittorio Sartorelli, M.D., in the NIAMS Muscle Gene Expression Group, along with Pier Lorenzo Puri, M.D., at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and other investigators at the University of Rome, exposed human and mouse myoblasts to DIs while they were dividing or after placement in a medium that stimulates myoblasts to become muscle cells. The researchers found that exposing dividing human and mouse myoblasts to a DI increased the levels of muscle proteins and led to a dramatic increase in the formation of muscle fibers. Similar experiments were done in developing mouse embryos, resulting in an increased number of somites (the regions of the embryo from which muscle cells are derived) and augmented expression of muscle genes.

Dr. Sartorelli’s group continues to investigate how the myoblasts are stimulated to fuse into myotubules. One theory is that the performance of poorly differentiated myoblasts is enhanced when they are recruited by cells with a good capacity to differentiate. Further research will be directed at discovering whether the cells that have been induced to form muscle will restore muscle function when transplanted into a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. In addition, the researchers at the NIAMS Muscle Gene Expression Group plan to expose adult muscle stem cells from a mouse model to DIs to understand their biology and their potential use as therapeutic tools.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Judith Wortman
NIH/National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Iezzi S, Cossu G, Nervi C, Sartorelli V, Puri P. Stage-specific modulation of skeletal myogenesis by inhibitors of nuclear deacetylases. PNAS 2002;99(11):7757-7762.

Duke University Medical Center researchers have identified the skeletal muscle changes that occur in response to endurance exercise and have better defined the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in creating new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis, in the process.

VEGF is a protein known to trigger blood vessel growth by activating numerous genes involved in angiogenesis.
The researchers’ new insights could provide a roadmap for medical investigators as they seek to use VEGF in treating human conditions characterized by lack of adequate blood flow, such as coronary artery disease or peripheral arterial disease.
Using mice as animal models, the researchers found that exercise initially stimulates the production of VEGF, which then leads to an increase in the number of capillaries within a specific muscle fiber type, ultimately leading to an anaerobic to aerobic change in the muscle fibers supplied by those vessels. The VEGF gene produces a protein that is known to trigger blood vessel growth.
The results of the Duke experiments were presented by cardiologist Richard Waters, M.D., Nov. 8, 2004, at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions in New Orleans.
“It is known that exercise can improve the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease in humans and it has been assumed that angiogenesis played a role in this improvement,” Waters said. “However, the clinical angiogenesis trials to date utilizing VEGF have been marginally successful and largely disappointing, so we felt it would be better at this point to return to animal studies in an attempt to better understand the angiogenic process.”
The Duke team performed their experiments using a mouse model of voluntary exercise. This experimental approach is important, they explained, because most skeletal muscle adaptation studies utilize electrical stimulation of the muscle, which is much less physiologic and does not as closely mimic what would be expected in human exercise.
When placed in the dark with a running wheel, mice will instinctively run, the researchers said. In the Duke experiments, 41 out of 42 mice “ran” up to seven miles each night. At regular intervals over a 28-day period, the researchers then performed detailed analysis of capillary growth and the subsequent changes in muscle fiber type and compared these findings to sedentary mice.
Mammalian muscle is generally made up of two different fiber types – slow-twitch fibers requiring oxygen to function, and the fast-twitch fibers, which function in the absence of oxygen by breaking down glucose. Because of their need for oxygen, slow-twitch fibers tend to have a higher density of capillaries.
“Exercise training is probably the most widely utilized physiological stimulus for skeletal muscle, but the mechanisms underlying the adaptations muscle fibers make in response to exercise is not well understood,” Waters said. “What we have shown in our model is that increases in the capillary density occur before a significant change from fast-twitch to slow-twitch fiber type, and furthermore, that changes in levels of the VEGF protein occur before the increased capillary density.”
“Interestingly, capillary growth appears to occur preferentially among fast-twitch fibers, and it is these very fibers that likely change to slow-twitch fibers,” Waters said. “Since exercise has the potential to impact an enormous number of clinical conditions, therapeutic manipulations intended to alter the response to exercise would benefit from a more detailed understanding of what actually happens to muscle as a result of exercise.”
The exact relationship between VEGF, exercise induced angiogenesis, and muscle fiber type adaptation is still not clear and will become the focus of the group’s continuing research. The findings from the current study, however, are providing important temporal and spatial clues to the adaptability process.
“Our data suggests that angiogenesis is one of the key early steps in skeletal muscle adaptation and may be an essential step in the adaptability process,” Waters continued. “This understanding could be crucial for designing new studies that can be performed to inhibit the angiogenic response to exercise in order to directly test the links between angiogenesis and skeletal muscle plasticity.”
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The research team was supported by grants from the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Other members of the Duke team were Ping Li, Brian Annex, M.D., and Zhen Yan, Ph.D. Svein Rotevatn, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway, was also a member of the team.

Duke University Medical Center researchers have identified the skeletal muscle changes that occur in response to endurance exercise and have better defined the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in creating new blood vessels, known as angiogenesis, in the process.

VEGF is a protein known to trigger blood vessel growth by activating numerous genes involved in angiogenesis.

The researchers’ new insights could provide a roadmap for medical investigators as they seek to use VEGF in treating human conditions characterized by lack of adequate blood flow, such as coronary artery disease or peripheral arterial disease.

Using mice as animal models, the researchers found that exercise initially stimulates the production of VEGF, which then leads to an increase in the number of capillaries within a specific muscle fiber type, ultimately leading to an anaerobic to aerobic change in the muscle fibers supplied by those vessels. The VEGF gene produces a protein that is known to trigger blood vessel growth.

The results of the Duke experiments were presented by cardiologist Richard Waters, M.D., Nov. 8, 2004, at the American Heart Association’s annual scientific sessions in New Orleans.

“It is known that exercise can improve the symptoms of peripheral arterial disease in humans and it has been assumed that angiogenesis played a role in this improvement,” Waters said. “However, the clinical angiogenesis trials to date utilizing VEGF have been marginally successful and largely disappointing, so we felt it would be better at this point to return to animal studies in an attempt to better understand the angiogenic process.”

The Duke team performed their experiments using a mouse model of voluntary exercise. This experimental approach is important, they explained, because most skeletal muscle adaptation studies utilize electrical stimulation of the muscle, which is much less physiologic and does not as closely mimic what would be expected in human exercise.

When placed in the dark with a running wheel, mice will instinctively run, the researchers said. In the Duke experiments, 41 out of 42 mice “ran” up to seven miles each night. At regular intervals over a 28-day period, the researchers then performed detailed analysis of capillary growth and the subsequent changes in muscle fiber type and compared these findings to sedentary mice.

Mammalian muscle is generally made up of two different fiber types – slow-twitch fibers requiring oxygen to function, and the fast-twitch fibers, which function in the absence of oxygen by breaking down glucose. Because of their need for oxygen, slow-twitch fibers tend to have a higher density of capillaries.

“Exercise training is probably the most widely utilized physiological stimulus for skeletal muscle, but the mechanisms underlying the adaptations muscle fibers make in response to exercise is not well understood,” Waters said. “What we have shown in our model is that increases in the capillary density occur before a significant change from fast-twitch to slow-twitch fiber type, and furthermore, that changes in levels of the VEGF protein occur before the increased capillary density.”

“Interestingly, capillary growth appears to occur preferentially among fast-twitch fibers, and it is these very fibers that likely change to slow-twitch fibers,” Waters said. “Since exercise has the potential to impact an enormous number of clinical conditions, therapeutic manipulations intended to alter the response to exercise would benefit from a more detailed understanding of what actually happens to muscle as a result of exercise.”

The exact relationship between VEGF, exercise induced angiogenesis, and muscle fiber type adaptation is still not clear and will become the focus of the group’s continuing research. The findings from the current study, however, are providing important temporal and spatial clues to the adaptability process.

“Our data suggests that angiogenesis is one of the key early steps in skeletal muscle adaptation and may be an essential step in the adaptability process,” Waters continued. “This understanding could be crucial for designing new studies that can be performed to inhibit the angiogenic response to exercise in order to directly test the links between angiogenesis and skeletal muscle plasticity.”

 

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Richard Merritt
Duke University Medical Center 

The research team was supported by grants from the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers have successfully used gene therapy to accelerate muscle regeneration in experimental animals with muscle damage, suggesting this technique may be a novel and effective approach for improving skeletal muscle healing, particularly for serious sports-related injuries. These findings are being presented at the American Society of Gene Therapy annual meeting in Baltimore, May 31 to June 4.

Skeletal muscle injuries are the most common injuries encountered in sports medicine. Although such injuries can heal spontaneously, scar tissue formation, or fibrosis, can significantly impede this process, resulting in incomplete functional recovery. Of particular concern are top athletes, who, when injured, need to recover fully as quickly as possible.
In this study, the Pitt researchers injected mice with a gene therapy vector containing myostatin propeptide–a protein that blocks the activity of the muscle-growth inhibitor myostatin–three weeks prior to experimentally damaging the mice’s skeletal muscles. Four weeks after skeletal muscle injury, the investigators observed an enhancement of muscle regeneration in the gene-therapy treated mice compared to the non-gene-therapy treated control mice. There also was significantly less fibrous scar tissue in the skeletal muscle of the gene-therapy treated mice compared to the control mice.
According to corresponding author Johnny Huard, Ph.D., the Henry J. Mankin Endowed Chair and Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Director of the Stem Cell Research Center of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, this approach offers a significant, long-lasting method for treating serious, sports-related muscle injuries.
“Based on our previous studies, we expect that gene-therapy treated cells will continue to overproduce myostatin propeptide for at least two years. Since the remodeling phase of skeletal muscle healing is a long-term process, we believe that prolonged expression of myostatin propeptide will continue to contribute to recovery of injured skeletal muscle by inducing an increase in muscle mass and minimizing fibrosis. This could significantly reduce the amount of time an athlete needs to recover and result in a more complete recovery,” he explained.
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Others involved in this study include, Jinhong Zhu, M.D., Yong Li, M.D., Ph.D., of the Growth and Development Laboratory, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; and Chunping Qiao, M.D., and Xiao Xiao, M.D., Ph.D., of the Molecular Therapies Laboratory, department of orthopaedic surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers have successfully used gene therapy to accelerate muscle regeneration in experimental animals with muscle damage, suggesting this technique may be a novel and effective approach for improving skeletal muscle healing, particularly for serious sports-related injuries.
Skeletal muscle injuries are the most common injuries encountered in sports medicine. Although such injuries can heal spontaneously, scar tissue formation, or fibrosis, can significantly impede this process, resulting in incomplete functional recovery. Of particular concern are top athletes, who, when injured, need to recover fully as quickly as possible.
In this study, the Pitt researchers injected mice with a gene therapy vector containing myostatin propeptide–a protein that blocks the activity of the muscle-growth inhibitor myostatin–three weeks prior to experimentally damaging the mice’s skeletal muscles. Four weeks after skeletal muscle injury, the investigators observed an enhancement of muscle regeneration in the gene-therapy treated mice compared to the non-gene-therapy treated control mice. There also was significantly less fibrous scar tissue in the skeletal muscle of the gene-therapy treated mice compared to the control mice.
According to corresponding author Johnny Huard, Ph.D., the Henry J. Mankin Endowed Chair and Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Director of the Stem Cell Research Center of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, this approach offers a significant, long-lasting method for treating serious, sports-related muscle injuries.
“Based on our previous studies, we expect that gene-therapy treated cells will continue to overproduce myostatin propeptide for at least two years. Since the remodeling phase of skeletal muscle healing is a long-term process, we believe that prolonged expression of myostatin propeptide will continue to contribute to recovery of injured skeletal muscle by inducing an increase in muscle mass and minimizing fibrosis. This could significantly reduce the amount of time an athlete needs to recover and result in a more complete recovery,” he explained.
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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Jim Swyers

Others involved in this study include, Jinhong Zhu, M.D., Yong Li, M.D., Ph.D., of the Growth and Development Laboratory, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh; and Chunping Qiao, M.D., and Xiao Xiao, M.D., Ph.D., of the Molecular Therapies Laboratory, department of orthopaedic surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Scientists have discovered that a group of chemicals known as Histone Deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors stimulate growth and regeneration of adult skeletal muscle cells by increasing expression of the protein follistatin. The research, published in the May issue of Developmental Cell, may provide new avenues for developing effective means to promote regeneration in muscular dystrophies.

Dr. Vittorio Sartorelli from the Muscle Gene Expression Group in the Laboratory of Muscle Biology, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues at the Salk Institute and the Dulbecco Telethon Institute in Rome report that HDAC inhibitors, which stimulate the formation of mature muscle cells from immature precursor cells, also cause a significant elevation of follistatin levels. When follistatin levels are reduced, then HDAC inhibitors no longer stimulate adult muscle growth. The regeneration activities of the HDAC inhibitors appear to function only in skeletal muscle, since follistatin is not stimulated in other cell types tested. In animal studies, administration of an HDAC inhibitor produced clear signs of muscle regeneration in regions of injured skeletal muscle tissues.

“Our findings establish for the first time that follistatin promotes the recruitment and fusion of immature muscle cells to pre-existing adult muscle fibers. These results suggest that follistatin is a promising target for future drug development of muscle regeneration. HDAC inhibitors, by stimulating follistatin, could well be pharmacologically useful as stimulants of muscle regeneration. We are investigating whether these inhibitors are a viable treatment to regenerate healthy new muscle tissues in animal models of muscular dystrophies,” explains Dr. Sartorelli. The functional link between HDAC inhibitors, follistatin, and adult muscle regeneration is especially provocative as an HDAC inhibitor is already being used clinically in humans as an anti-cancer therapeutic.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Heidi Hardman
Cell Press 

Simona Iezzi, Monica Di Padova, Carlo Serra, Giuseppina Caretti, Cristiano Simone, Eric Maklan, Giulia Minetti, Po Zhao, Eric P. Hoffman, Pier Lorenzo Puri, and Vittorio Sartorelli: “Deacetylase Inhibitors Increase Muscle Cell Size by Promoting Myoblast Recruitment and Fusion through Induction of Follistatin”

 

ATHENS, Ohio – Men over 60 may be able to increase their strength by as much as 80 percent by performing intense weight training exercises, according to physiologists involved in studies of the health benefits of weight lifting. The researchers also have found that older men gain strength at the same rate as men in their 20s.

In a study of 18 men ages 60 to 75, Ohio University physiologists found that subjects who participated in a 16-week, high-intensity resistence training program on average were 50 percent to 80 percent stronger by the end of the study. None of the participants had engaged in weight lifting prior to the study. Researchers also observed improvements in the seniors’ muscle tone, aerobic capacity and cholesterol profile.

These are some of the latest findings from a decades-long examination of the impact of exercise on the health of men and women of all ages. When researchers compared the strength gains of the elderly participants in this study to findings from other studies they’ve done of college-age men, they found that changes in strength and muscle size were similar in both age groups. The findings were published in a recent issue of the Journal of Gerontology.

“There have been a number of research projects that have come out over the years that suggest there is no age limitation to getting stronger from resistance training,” said Robert Staron, co-author of this study and an associate professor of anatomy in the university’s College of Osteopathic Medicine. “It’s become obvious that it’s important to maintain a certain amount of muscle mass as we age.”

This new study also suggests that elderly men can handle heavy workloads over a long period of time. Participants – who all were in good health and closely monitored during testing and training – performed leg presses, half squats and leg extensions twice a week to exercise the lower body. When the men began the study, they were able to leg press about 375 pounds on average. After the 16-week period, they could take on about 600 pounds. Studies elsewhere have involved low-intensity exercises over a shorter term.

In addition to the increase in strength, researchers found that weight lifting had a beneficial impact on the participants’ cardiovascular system. Tests on an exercise treadmill showed that their bodies used oxygen more efficiently after weight training.

“The individuals run until they are completely exhausted, and it took longer for them to reach that point after resistance training,” Staron said.

Blood samples taken before and after weight training also showed favorable changes in participants’ overall cholesterol profiles, he said, including increases in HDL cholesterol levels and decreases in LDL cholesterol levels.

Losing muscle tone and strength is not uncommon for many senior citizens, Staron said, but this research suggests that a lack of physical exercise can contribute to the problem.

“Certainly, inactivity does play a role in contributing to the decrease in muscle mass,” Staron said. “If we can maintain a certain level of strength through exercise, our quality of life should be better as we age.”

Before beginning a weight lifting regimen, it’s a good idea to consult a physician, Staron advised, adding that it’s also important to learn proper weight lifting techniques. Staron and his colleagues now have turned their attention to how certain weight training routines impact young people.

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Article adapted by MD Sports from original press release.
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Contact: Andrea Gibson
Ohio University

Collaborators on this project are Fredrick Hagerman, Robert Hikida and Thomas Murray of the College of Osteopathic Medicine, former graduate student Seamus Walsh, Roger Gilders of the College of Health and Human Services, Kumika Toma of the College of Arts and Sciences and Kerry Ragg of the Student Health Service.