We’ve all got different reasons for doing triathlons. It might be to give yourself the impetus to get fit or lose weight. Perhaps its the satisfaction of working hard at something and achieving your goals. Maybe its because you love crushing the opposition – or that you simply just love swimming, cycling and running. It might be all of the above!
However, take a look at this 2011 study entitled “Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes“. Whilst there have been numerous studies examining muscle loss in ageing sedentary adults, little had previously been done to investigate whether the muscle loss commonly associated with the ageing process is a physiological result of muscle ageing, or an reflection of disuse atrophy (muscle wasting through lack of use).
Take a look at the longitudinal MRIs of 3 men below. Note the increased fat and decreased muscle mass of the non-triathlete, and the similarity between the younger and older triathletes.
The study shows that we are capable of preserving both muscle mass and strength with lifelong physical activity – as the authors of the study say, “The loss of lean muscle mass and the resulting subjective and objective weakness experienced with sedentary aging imposes significant but modifiable personal, societal, and economic burdens. As sports medicine clinicians, we must encourage people to become or remain active at all ages. This study, and those reviewed here, document the possibility to maintain muscle mass and strength across the ages via simple lifestyle changes.”
Conclusion? Keep doing what you are doing!