Need to Build Muscle? Endurance Training Will Do It

Need to Build Muscle? Endurance Training Will Do It

Remember when ABBA's "Dancing Queen" made you jump onto the disco floor? (The first time around, not the second.) Get your groove back -- and a younger, sleeker body to go with it -- by growing more satellite cells.

More what? Satellite cells -- repair wizards that hang out on muscle fibers, where they fix damage and rebuild breakdowns. But more and more go on a permanent coffee break as you age, which is one big reason muscle mass starts diminishing in your late 30s. In your 50s, you see the external effects: Muscle tissue that was once sleek and firm is softer and squishier -- and weaker, too. (You wish the supermarket checker hadn't packed all the cans in the same bag.) Get fit with this new way to workout.

The first to go are your "fast twitch" muscle fibers that power quick moves, like spinning on the disco floor, dribbling on the basketball court, or dancing in the conga line at your nephew's wedding. Later, this muscle loss makes it harder to catch yourself if you stumble, raising the odds of bone-breaking spills.

So how do you get more satellite cells back on the job? Take a brisk walk, go for a swim, or hop on the exercise bike that's gathering dust in the rec room. New research shows that endurance exercise boosts the number of satellite cells by up to 47%. Okay, it was a rat study; the lucky rodents grew younger by hitting the treadmill for 20 minutes a day. But we bet the same move-it strategy will work for you, too. Learn why afternoon exercise is best.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

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