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Never Starting New

Why exercise is never wasted and everything you've done up to this point matters.

For many people, "starting" with a personal trainer means, "trying something else." Whether that's because you've not found a good fit with other trainers or you've been trapped in the workout-injury-workout cycle, studies show that nothing is wasted.

If you're in the workout-injury-workout group, you might be prone to think of yourself as ruined or broken. "Is my body just not made for fitness?" "Will I ever reach my potential after [insert chronic ailment here]?"

Shameless plug: I love working with people in this group. You CAN improve and I'm on your team!

Many people seeking to start fresh with exercise have been athletes in the past or are attempting to return from an injury that took them out of the running for a while (literally or figuratively). If this is you, have hope! Get excited!

The study from the journal Function discusses muscle memory and the body's ability to learn or more quickly re-learn fitness. We talk about muscle memory a lot in physical therapy, but usually pertaining to specific movement patterns and the ways our muscles prefer to operate based on personal habits.

In this study, though, muscle memory means something else. Muscle memory is part of epigenetic muscle adaptability, or, our physiologic ability to learn new ways to develop muscles at a cellular level based on our genetic expression.

...That felt like a failed attempt at simplifying something. Let's give it another go:

Imagine your first bout of exercise. Was it for a specific sport in high school? Did you do 4 weeks of a workout program with a friend? Whatever it was, that exercise changed the way your muscles work.

After a period of time without exercising, your muscles don't forget how to work--and when you go back to an activity the time between discomfort and feeling like you're moving better gets shortened.

There are WAY more factors at play here, but that's a gist of one system.

If you can learn something, you can remember it. Hence, muscle memory.

This study showcases the adaptability of muscles. Adult mice were conditioned (using very fancy wheels, maybe from Peloton? They didn't disclose that info), and then had a lapse in exercise.

After this lapse, the adult mice were able to "bounce back" more quickly than unconditioned rodents in a 4 week training program. So, what happened and why is this important for you, a human?

The researchers found that, because of previous exercise, the DNA expression in muscles had changed to adapt to exercise. What's more, those changes lasted for 12 weeks and allowed those mice to get back to fitness faster.

For reference, 12 weeks is approximately 10% of the mouse's lifespan. Consider how long humans live, on average, take 10%... You see what I'm getting at.

Fitness-knowledge nuggets from this study:

  • No matter how little exercise you've done or can do now, it will pay off.

  • No matter how long it's been since you've exercised, getting back at it right now is worthwhile.

  • No matter how old you think you are, your body can adapt and improve from exercise.

  • There are factors at play way beyond our transient comprehension, so--what the heck--go for it! Whatever "it" is.

What's your "it" and why aren't you getting back at it? Don't start new, remember that you've already done some work to be where you are and the future is bright because of the past.


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