Too Late to Start Exercising? No, Says Science!

If you’ve reached an advanced age, or even relatively so, it’s not too late to build muscle and benefit from exercise, according to a new University of Birmingham study.

That’s right, even this
guy can build muscle!

Older folks with no previous participation in exercise programs showed an ability to add new muscle as that exhibited by well-trained master athletes in the same age bracket in this research.

Even the total novice can win at this. Researchers from the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport and Exercise Science compared two groups of older men. They took one group of “master athletes,” or lifelong exercisers and current top-level competitors in their sport, and one group of healthy men who’d never taken part in structured exercise programs. The study was published in Frontiers in Physiology.

Researchers gave each participant and isotope tracer. In this case, it was a drink of “heavy” water. Each man then did a single bout of exercise by weight training on an exercise machine. Muscle biopsies were taken from each participant 48 hours prior to and 48 hours after the workout. These biopsies were checked to see how the muscles were responding to exercise. The isotope tracer revealed how proteins were developing within the muscles.

It was anticipated that the master athletes would show an increased capability to build muscle because of their superior levels of fitness and the length of time they had been fit. However, the results showed something else. Both groups had an equal capacity to build muscle in response to the exercise performed.

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“Our study clearly shows that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a regular exerciser throughout your life, you can still derive benefit from exercise whenever you start,” says lead researcher, Dr Leigh Breen. “Obviously a long term commitment to good health and exercise is the best approach to achieve whole-body health, but even starting later on in life will help delay age-related frailty and muscle weakness.

“Current public health advice on strength training for older people is often quite vague. What’s needed is more specific guidance on how individuals can improve their muscle strength, even outside of a gym-setting through activities undertaken in their homes — activities such as gardening, walking up and down stairs, or lifting up a shopping bag can all help if undertaken as part of a regular exercise regime.”


So, if you’ve never picked up a weight, never been off the treadmill or even been a couch potato all your life, there’s hope for you to build muscle, get stronger and be fit! Just go get started already!

Keep the faith and keep after it!

Journal Reference – James McKendry, Brandon J. Shad, Benoit Smeuninx, Sara Y. Oikawa, Gareth Wallis, Carolyn Greig, Stuart M. Phillips, Leigh Breen. Comparable Rates of Integrated Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis Between Endurance-Trained Master Athletes and Untrained Older Individuals. Frontiers in Physiology, 2019

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