About Muscle Recovery and Repair
No matter your age, if you push yourself too hard while exercising, you are likely to feel the consequences! Recovery can be simple if you are young or don’t push yourself too far outside your limits. However, time will wear down your joints and recovery time. Time in the gym and time in life.
Being an avid, active athlete is hard on your body! The wear and tear caused by hitting the gym regularly only gets worse with age. While the aches and pains don’t recover quite as quickly as they used to, it’s still vitally important to remain active as you get older. Loss of bone and muscle can lead to problems like osteoarthritis and osteoporosis. These can impact mobility and balance which, in turn, impact the risk of falling. By exercising regularly, older adults can stay healthy and independent longer.
Factors in Muscle Recovery
Depending on your health and goals, your concerns about muscle recovery will vary. Before you select which recovery options to pursue, you need to understand what factors impact your needs and their effectiveness.
The amount of recovery you need from exercise depends on a variety of factors including your fitness level, the volume & intensity of exercise, and familiarity of the exercise. The same variables apply to running where fitness level is particularly important. For example, some elite marathoners run 100 plus miles per week and need almost no rest between runs. On the other hand, a weekend warrior may attempt to run 20 miles in a week, or change up the stimulus with hill running, which could create intense soreness and require longer recovery times.
Three common factors which inhibit recovery are lack of sleep, lack of proper nutrition and over-training. Lack of sleep is usually found in individuals who are chronically sleep deprived, their muscle soreness will likely be more painful and may take more time for them to heal. When it comes to lack of proper nutrition, if the individual is not adequately hydrated, is deficient in potassium, or is not consuming enough protein, the pain from muscle soreness can be intense!
Many active individuals are guilty of overtraining their bodies at least once or twice in their lifetime. If you continue working out intensely without sufficient rest, muscle soreness can turn out worse than you anticipated. The best way to avoid very sore muscles and improve recovery is to use a progressive exercise program where workouts become more challenging at a measured pace over time.
Traditional Muscle Recovery Options
Ironically, while activity breaks down muscle, it also increases its recovery rate. In a recent study, after eight weeks of exercise, old mice regained more muscle mass and experienced faster muscle repair than mice of the same age who had not exercised. A body in motion does appear to stay in motion!
There are no clinically-proven ways to definitively speed up recovery of sore muscles. There are, however, a handful of treatments which may help alleviate the feeling of soreness like rest/active recovery, hydration, pre and post-workout nutrition, topical creams and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). If you hit the gym regularly, some of these options may sound familiar!
The rest/active recovery stage consists of getting plenty of sleep and resting your body. In simple cases without serious injury or preexisting conditions, this may be the most effective treatment. In addition, active recovery, which is light exercise during the recovery phase is able to stimulate blood flow to the muscles to help reduce muscle pain. Active recovery can include swimming or a light jog.
Hydration is key since it can help flush out toxins you consume out of your body. Dehydration can make muscle soreness even more painful. There is no universal amount of water that everyone should drink. Somewhere around 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day is a good starting point.
When it comes to pre and post-workout nutrition, consuming a 2:1 ratio of carbs to protein either before, or after a workout, or both, may help reduce the severity of muscle soreness.
Topical creams like Ben Gay and IcyHot provide the perception of pain relief, but do not have much of an impact on the underlying muscle.
Lastly, drugs like Advil and Aleve, known as NSAIDS, can help relieve the discomfort of muscle soreness. It’s not advisable to use NSAIDS on a consistent basis, but rather appropriate for acute bout of soreness.
Older Adults Who Exercise May Develop Muscle Repair
Getting older isn’t all fun and games! However, that doesn’t mean older adults should slow down. Regular exercise plays a critical role in helping muscles repair themselves as quickly as possible after injury. Remaining strong can help prevent your health from deteriorating to the point that your ability to do daily tasks is impeded. Additionally, exercise that involves pre-conditioning may improve the muscle repair response in older.
This does not mean that seniors should push through pain no matter what! Pain is your body’s way of speaking to you and the older you are, the more important it becomes to listen to those warnings. However, you shouldn’t be afraid to push yourself to develop healthier work out habits.
Exercise-conditioning can help improve the delayed skeletal muscle regeneration observed in advanced age. Medical researchers have found that the physiological and metabolic benefits of exercise radiate to skeletal muscle satellite cells, the adult stem cells responsible for repair after injury. Even as the contractile elements of muscle tissue wane with age, the capacity of the satellite cells to respond to exercise cues is maintained. That means, no matter your age, your body has the cells within it that it needs to repair.
The same stem cells your body uses to repair itself fuel a new field of study called regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine focuses on repairing and regenerating damaged tissues.
Whether you are a young gym rat or a senior with arthritis, your joints can be worn down with time or in a sudden accident. To counteract this damage, stem cell therapy uses adult stem cells, the unspecialized cells within our bodies that create new cells for our tissues and organs. These cells can be removed from your body and injected in other damaged areas to encourage healing.
If you have a hard time recovering from your workout, consider using regenerative medicine to kick-start your body’s natural healing process. The Stem Cell Orthopedic Institute of Texas is available for consultations at (210) 293-3136.