We would like to share a study that can only be described as “revolutionary” in its impact for senior citizens. The study, as incredulous as it may sound, revealed that strength training can actually reverse the aging process.
The study was published in the online medical journal Public Library of Science. In it researchers Melov, Tarnopolsky, Beckman, Falkey and Hubbard recruited 25 healthy seniors, average age 70, and an equal number of college students, average age 26. All submitted to having muscle biopsies performed, and then the researchers compared 24,000 genes in each participant. They noted that 600 genes were markedly different in the older and younger subjects.
Prior to the study both the senior and younger subjects were found to have similar activity levels, but the young people were, as one might expect, considerably stronger. The seniors then took part in a strength-training program for six months. When it was over, their strength had gone from being 59 percent weaker than the younger subjects to being only 38 percent weaker. More important, however, was the change in the seniors’ genes. Their genetic fingerprints changed noticeably, looking a lot more like those of the younger trainees. The researchers concluded their study, as follows:
“Following exercise training, the transcriptional signature of aging was markedly reversed back to that of younger levels for most genes that were affected by both age and exercise. We conclude that healthy older adults show evidence of mitochondrial impairment and muscle weakness, but that this can be partially reversed at the phenotypic level and substantially reversed at the transcriptome level, following six months of resistance exercise training.”
It’s worth noting that nothing else in human history has shown a functional reversing of age in humans at a molecular level. When resveratrol was shown to produce some reversal of aging in mice and worms, it flew off the shelves—without any proof that it’s an age-reversal agent in humans (and only some suggestive evidence that it functions that way in animals). But here, after millennia of searching for the “fountain of youth,” of searching for anything that might extend life or objectively reverse aging in humans (going back as far as our earliest recorded literature in The Epic of Gilgamesh), a clinical study has essentially said, “Look, here it is—an actual functional reversal of aging at the molecular level!” It is absolutely astounding to take genes that were functioning very poorly and then return them to a normal level of functioning in elderly people.
But it’s not surprising to us—nor to anyone who performs the type of training that we advocate—because it’s not uncommon to witness elderly people start working out with very minimal weights and then, in a short span of time, see their strength become equal to or greater than the average 25-year-old that we bring in off the street for a first workout. Indeed, we have 75- and 80-year-old clients training at our facilities, and routinely when we bring in a new 25-year-old client, the weights we start them off with are not approaching what most of our older, established clients are currently using.
The most amazing thing that happened after this study came out in 2007 was—nothing. That news of such magnitude should come out during our lifetime and not be on the front page of every newspaper and at the top of every evening program was a surprise to us. Perhaps it failed to garner much attention because people are more than willing to take a pill, thinking it’s going to reverse their aging. It’s only the exceptional individual who would hear such news and say, “I can do something for myself. By the sweat of my own brow and by applying my own effort and my own work ethic I can achieve this for myself!” Perhaps.
For this benefit to occur, an individual, young or old, must be willing to train with effort, a rare find in our society. The beautiful thing is that the ones who understand and apply this are the ones we get to work with—and the ones who are reaping all the benefits we’ve covered in this book.
—Doug McGuff, M.D., and John Little
Editor’s note: The above is an excerpt from Body by Science, available at www.Home-Gym.com, or call 1-800-447-0008.