Older men show different responses to weightlifting than their younger counterparts, according to a study published earlier this year in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
The differences include genetic up-regulation of a key enzyme related to muscle breakdown in older men. The results help in understanding the molecular control points for aging-related muscle atrophyand may lead to new approaches to mitigating the adverse effects of muscle wasting in older adults.
The researchers compared responses to resistance exerciseweightliftingin a group of older and younger men with average ages 21 and 68 years. Before and after the men performed a series of exercises, including squat, leg press, and leg extension exercises, blood samples were obtained to measure key hormones involved in muscle responses to exercise.
In addition, samples of muscle tissue were obtained to measure gene expression of two specific enzymescal enzymescalled atrogin-1 and MuRF-1involved with the process of skeletal muscle breakdown.
Recent studies have suggested that these enzymes reflect age-related differences in muscle metabolism and muscle response to exercise.
As expected, the younger men had higher levels of the hormones cortisol and insulin-like growth factor-1 before and after exercise. In both age groups, cortisol levels increased significantly five minutes after exercise.
Dr. Chad M. Kerskick, senior author of the study, says, "Cortisol increases when the body is stressed and speeds up muscle breakdown, whereas IGF-1 increases are associated with increased growth of cells and tissues in the human body."
In addition, 24 hours after exercise, the level of IGF-1 had increased in older men. Recent studies have suggested that IGF-1 may reduce degradation of skeletal muscle protein.
Before exercise, the older men had higher expression of the MuRF-1 gene, which has been linked to age-related muscle atrophy. There was no age-related difference in expression of atrogin-1. Changes in MuRF-1 and atrogin-1 after exercise didn't differ significantly between the younger and older men. However, men with higher expression of MuRF-1 had lower levels of IGF-1.
Muscle mass and strength decrease with aging, which is thought to be related to reductions in the levels of anabolic hormones and growth factors.
Muscle growth response to exercise (hypertrophy) is also decreased with aging. Recent studies have tried to identify the molecular-level changes in muscle protein degradation contributing to these aging-related differences in exercise response.
The new results help to clarify some of the differences between younger and older muscle. The increased expression of MuRF-1 in older men could be a precursor to muscle atrophy, or may possibly represent an adaptive change to help maintain muscle mass.
In addition to advancing scientific understanding of the effects of aging, the results may have practical applicationsif they can inform the development of exercise regimens to maximize muscle response to exercise in older people.
Dr. Kerskick and co-authors write, "Additional research into the molecular control points for muscle atrophy is important and can help elucidate modifications to resistance exercise training to optimize results and ultimately helping fitness professionals and clinicians better understand muscle physiology with exercise and advancing age."
The editorial mission of The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research is to advance the knowledge about strength and conditioning through research.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association is an international nonprofit educational association founded in 1978 serving over 33,000 members worldwide.
The NSCA seeks to develop and present the most advanced information related to strength training and conditioning practices and injury prevention. Central to its mission, the NSCA seeks to bridge the gap between the scientist in the laboratory and the practitioner in the field.
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