Jan 24, 2022 - News

U of A researcher finds exercise could reverse aging

Animated illustration of a clock hand in the shape of a person spinning counterclockwise

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The fountain of youth might just be the one you sip from after a workout.

What's happening: Exercise could mitigate, or even reverse, the aging process in muscles, a recent study co-authored by University of Arkansas' Kevin Murach suggests.

Why it matters: Modern medicine has prolonged the life expectancy of humans globally, but social, physiological and psychological factors help determine the quality of that life.

  • Murach founded the Molecular Muscle Mass Regulation laboratory within the College of education and health professions last year.
  • The research should drive interest in the university and the region as the Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences begins construction, eventually creating a health care education hub in NWA.

Context: The concept of anti-aging has always been popular and even Silicon Valley is interested.

  • Just last week, investors including Jeff Bezos, launched Altos Labs, $3 billion biotech company focused on slowing our biological clocks.

What they did: Murach and other researchers studied mice that ran on weighted wheels. At 22 months old the mice were in their twilight years, which is roughly equivalent to early 60s in humans.

  • The wheels were weighted so the subjects would build muscle.

What they found: After two months of progressively weighted running, the now 24-month-old mice were the "epigenetic age" of mice eight weeks younger than sedentary mice of the same age. This is a plus of a little more than 8% of their life expectancy.

  • Epigenetic age is a measure of biological age, different from one's chronological age.

The bottom line: Murach isn't yet ready to draw a hard conclusion that biological aging can be paused or reversed due to improved muscle health.

  • More research is planned to understand more about how exercise impacts epigenetic aging, he tells Axios.

Go deeper: Murach, who came to the U of A from the University of Kentucky last year, oversaw research on another study about muscle memory. Even after periods of abstinence from weight-training, muscles should respond quickly to exercise when it's resumed, that study found.

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