Athlete Dr Jessica Piasecki from Nottingham Trent University highlights how new studies are shedding more light on importance of keeping active into older age

Recently some important findings linked with ageing research have been highlighted and these almost always include some aspect of research involving masters athletes.

Most notably, it has been shown that years of training may not only benefit muscle in older age, but also the nerves that control our muscles. Also, despite their years of training, master athletes still have room to improve when it comes to balance and that people taking up endurance running at a later stage in life (after the age of 50 years old) can still improve their body composition, muscle power and strength. Put simply, it is never too late to start taking up exercise.

Last month, researchers from Nottingham Trent University and University of Nottingham attended the BMAF Championships at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham to carry out some more detailed measurements on muscles and nerves. They hope to answer further questions about how exercising into older age may improve not only the strength of muscles, but also the control of our muscles.

Also, it is the hope of the researchers that athletes across all of the ages can be studied.

Dr Jessica Piasecki from Nottingham Trent University explained: “Previous ageing studies have tended to make comparisons between the very young and the very old age groups and have completely ignored the middle age categories. In fact, between the ages of 40-55 years old, a number of physiological systems begin to decline, and filling in these gaps could provide us with vital information.”

Over the course of the weekend the group tested 36 athletes across a range of ages and disciplines, with equal numbers of men and women. Testing involved a number of measures including balance, motor control, strength and giving a blood sample.

Mathew Piasecki, assistant professor from the University of Nottingham, said the response from volunteers was more than they could have hoped for.

“We always have a lot of interest in this kind of work from the masters athlete community, they tend to always be willing to give up their time, in fact we even had people queuing a few times over the weekend! Fortunately, some of our tests can be quite competitive which always helps attract athletes,” he said.

The researchers say these studies utilise master athletes as a model ageing population; people who have aged but have also continued to be highly active.

If you would like to find out more about the ongoing research, please get in touch with Jessica Piasecki at [email protected]

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