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A New Kind of Muscle Memory

If you’ve ever wondered why some people can go to the gym for only a month, but manage to come out with muscles you didn’t know a person could have, then University of Oslo physiologist, Kristian Gunderson may have the answer you have been looking for. Gunderson headed a study on muscles and how exercising can cause indefinite changes in the muscle.

The recent study demonstrated how your muscles are able to ‘remember’ their former strength, thus making it easier for a person to regain the muscles they previously had. This means that if you worked out in high school or University, but let yourself go for a few years, you may be able to regain that former muscle in less time than you could have imagined.

However, researchers are not certain how long this new kind of ‘muscle memory’ will last. Gunderson makes it clear that the structural changes that occur in the muscle may be very long-lasting, potentially permanent.

During the study, the researchers put mice through strength training for their hind legs to build muscle. The researchers then took the mice off their training regimen to examine some of the muscle nuclei. What Gunderson and her team observed was that, although the mice lost muscle mass, the nuclei remained. This would give the muscle an extra advantage, a head start if you will, if the mouse was trained again.

For those wanting to stay fit and be able to maintain or regain muscle further into life, the earlier you exercise appears to be better for you. Gunderson explains that your muscles ability to develop this kind of ‘memory’ becomes weaker over time. This means, that if you exercise while you are young, it will be much easier for you to receive the benefits of your work when you are older.

Gunderson also discovered something that could impact all of sports. It seems that athletes, who use steroids to train also receive this advantage, as steroids also give you more muscle nuclei. This means that even though an athlete may have stopped using the illegal steroids, they may still be receiving an unfair advantage from it. This could affect the way doping punishments will work in sporting events. For example, if the effects of these changes to the structure of a muscle are permanent, should the ban become permanent? Officials in charge of sporting events may need to discuss the findings in order to determine if any potential rule changes will be required.

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