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Aging and the Effects of Inactivity

Feb 23, 2018

Getting older comes with a lot of changes, and one of those changes might be how your muscles react to inactivity, according to a new study.

Elderly people who don't get enough exercise may experience more severe muscular impacts than younger people who don't exercise, this study found. Even short periods of inactivity caused by hospitalization could compromise the functional capacity and muscle mass of elderly people, according to the study authors.

These researchers compared how a group of sixteen elderly patients and a group of seven younger patients responded to a two-week period of inactivity and then a two-week retraining period. 

Compared to the inactive younger patients, inactive elderly people were more likely to experience significant loss of muscle mass, changes in the nervous system's ability to control muscle contractions and a more difficult recovery period.

"The results obtained are relevant not only to understand the inactivity-dependent enhancement of the decline (in muscle mass, metabolic health and functional capacity) but also to design new rehabilitation protocols where timing and intensity of the sessions are optimized," said lead author, Carlo Reggiani, in a press release.

The authors of this study noted that the elderly study participants were all healthy. They said the effects they identified could be different for elderly people who have health problems. This study was a small study and only included men which are limitations. 

If you are concerned about your physical activity levels, reach out to your health care provider for help.

This study was published in the Journal of Physiology.

Information on study funding sources and potential conflicts of interest was not available at the time of publication.

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