Recently, I came across an older article from 2011 published in Physical SportsMed journal that had some fascinating discoveries about muscle mass and strength in sedentary aging adults compared to athletic aging adults. Let’s take a deeper look.
The top picture shows a cross section of the quadriceps muscle (big thigh muscle) of a 40-year- old elite triathlete. You can see the mostly lean muscle mass in that picture. It looks strikingly similar to the bottom pic which is of a 70-year-old elite triathlete. You can see from both the pictures that their thigh muscles look almost identical, both with good quality lean muscle mass throughout.
Now, look at the middle pic of a 74-year- old sedentary person. See the difference? All the white stuff is fat deposits and the middle has a little bit of actual muscle left. This is a rather striking example of the benefits of maintaining regular exercise throughout one’s lifespan. While we are not all elite triathletes, these effects can be seen on a smaller scale with individuals who maintain regular use of their muscles.
The authors of this article go on to conclude that maintenance of muscle mass and strength through regular exercise may decrease or eliminate falls, functional decline, and loss of independence that are commonly seen in aging adults.
So, the next time you need some motivation to exercise….think of these thighs!
Wroblewski AP, et al. Phys Sportsmed. 2011. Sep;39(3):172-8. doi: 10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933.