Is there truly such a thing as ‘muscle memory’? What research says


Early research discovers that working out can help you build muscle even after years. The research proposes that the effects of work out, mostly from a young age, could have more helpful effects on keeping or regaining muscle mass even years later. And this shows that the old dogma “use it or lose it” is quite wrong.

In a review published in Frontiers In Physiology, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, explains the evidence for this real “muscle memory” as it is proved in animal and insect models. Researchers note, however, that while promising, these findings are not straight comparable to humans yet.

How muscle is built?

Muscles are special cells of the body which are amazingly plastic. They can shrink or even grow at will depending on living situations. Work out is an example involved in hypertrophy (muscle growth), forming muscle fibers which can be 100,000 times bigger than an average cell in the human body. Instead, malnutrition can cause muscles to shrink (atrophy).

Single cells contain one nucleus, but during hypertrophy, cell growth cannot be continued by a single nucleus, so muscle cells actively recruit nuclei from neighboring cells.

A theory is known as the “myonuclear domain hypothesis” states that these nuclei come together during muscle growth, but they are also supposed to die off if the muscle shrinks.

In a new study, researchers argue that nuclei must sustain a certain ratio with the cell volume: Hypertrophy requires more nuclei and atrophy requires less.

The evidence of the research suggests that these additional nuclei, in fact, persist through atrophy. Thus, allowing people to “bank” these additional nuclei in their muscle cells to be drawn on later in life.

However, researchers claim that if this is generalizable, then after acquiring a nucleus you get to keep it. Hence, it’s much easier to get those nuclei when you are young and fit.

At that point, there will be rich called satellite pool or stem cell pool of cells, which contribute their nuclei to the muscle. So, researchers have found that it is easier to gain muscle when you are young rather than old.

True muscle memory

This research is still in its early phases, but it joins other studies which have found evidence of muscle “memory.” Last year, a study involved eight human subjects. It found that muscles may develop some genetic markers during a workout. These markers may help muscle growth later in life.

The early evidence from this study is that individuals who have spent time exercising will have an easier time attaining back any lost muscle.

These findings show that even though muscle atrophy can occur within weeks, an individual who worked out in the past will be expected to have an easier time to rebuild muscle than an individual who never worked out.

According to Dr. Nadya Swedan, once an athlete always an athlete. He is a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. He said, it’s harder for people who never exercised to get into exercise later in life, than those who exercised, took a pause, and then restart it.

This understanding of how to improve muscle growth could help you to improve the health of several patients.

Muscle atrophy associated with aging, known as sarcopenia, as well as other reasons including stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or just sedentary behavior, are all related to several health problems.

Sarcopenia, especially in older persons, can decrease independence by affecting mobility. It’s also related to greater all-cause mortality risk and rheumatoid arthritis.

It’s never too late

At any age, you can improve your muscle function. The study should also serve as a call to action for parents and children alike. Physical at a young age could prove more significant now than it’s ever been, particularly if it means being fit in old age.

If you are very healthy and fit when you are young, even if you get out of the habit of working out, you massed possibly those extra nuclei. And when you come back to it, it is possible to get a level of fitness which would be hard to attain if you were doing it for the first time.




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Areeba Hussain
The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health.


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