A small study has suggested walking as a simple,cost-free therapy to prevent elderly people losing muscle mass
Recommending elderly people take a short walk every day can help to maintain their body's muscle-building response to the hormone insulin, say experts.
Insulin plays a crucial role in maintaining muscle mass, however the body's response to the hormone lessens with age.
Scientists asked 13 healthy volunteers, aged 60 years and over, to walk on a treadmill for 45 minutes before receiving an insulin injection.
The next day, scientists took blood samples from each volunteer. Net muscle protein growth and blood flow was higher in elderly participants who had exercised than in those who had not.
"We thought, let's see what happens if we use aerobic exercise, one of the interventions that has been shown in the past to improve vasodilation, to find out whether we can get insulin to stimulate muscle synthesis in older people," said study author Elena Volpi (University of Texas, USA).
"It turned out that a fast walk restored the insulin response quite well."
Volpi concludes: "We need to test this hypothesis further with larger trials, but still, it's one reason why elderly people ought to be regularly walking, swimming or cycling."