Exercise Counteracts Muscle Wasting

Physical activity slows muscle breakdown caused by heart failure and age

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) With age and conditions such as heart failure, it's not uncommon for individuals to experience muscle wasting. Physical activity appears to be key to reversing that trend while also reducing inflammation.

Researchers found that regardless of age, patients who exercised more experienced less muscle wasting as their bodies became conditioned to handle more physical activity.

"Exercise regularly to slow muscle wasting."

Stephan Gielen, MD, lead co-author and deputy director of cardiology at the University Hospital at Martin-Luther-University of Halle in Germany, said that many doctors still believe that cardiac rehabilitation doesn't really help in old age. He said these findings clearly prove that belief false.

During the study researchers followed 60 heart failure patients and 60 healthy individuals. Half of each group was under 55, while the remainder was 65 and older. Half of the participants from each group were randomly assigned to four weeks of supervised aerobic training or no physical activity.

The group assigned to exercise completed four 20-minute aerobic sessions daily five days a week and one 60-minute group session. Investigators conducted muscle biopsies before and after the study period.

They found that the aerobic exercise was associated with increased muscle force endurance and oxygen uptake. Heart failure patients under age 55 increased peak oxygen intake by 25 percent while older heart failure patients increased it an average of 27 percent.

The biopsies also revealed that levels of a muscle protein indicating muscle wasting called MuRF-1 were higher in participants with heart failure as compared to healthy patients. Physical activity was found to reduce this protein and also lower muscle inflammation, measured by levels of protein TNF-alpha.

Researchers found that while muscle size was unaffected, both younger and older heart failure patients were able to increase muscle strength. Investigators said the findings could offer a treatment for muscle breakdown associated with heart failure, and also could play a role in drug development.

The study was recently published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

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Review Date: 
May 6, 2012
Last Updated:
May 8, 2012