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Press Release - 11 January 2006

Wanted: middle-aged men to help slow the ageing process

Scientists at the University of Bath are looking for middle-aged men to help them work out how to slow down the ageing process.

They need eight volunteers aged 40 – 50 to help complete a research project looking at the effect of exercises on the production of a key hormone involved in the ageing of the body.

They hope to identify the type of exercise that is best for stimulating the release of growth hormone, which declines by about 15 per cent with each passing decade after the age of about 25. Regularly stimulating growth hormone release could slow down the way our muscles weaken with age.

Previous research has shown that in young people, exercise can lead to short-term increases in growth hormone that are in excess of 25 times the levels seen at rest. However, in older people much smaller increases in growth hormone occur after exercise.

Researchers in the University’s School for Health are now investigating hormone responses to exercise in middle-aged men to help understand the relationship between ageing, exercise and hormone release.

“We do not yet know whether it is ageing itself that causes the changes in hormone levels or whether regular exercise can slow down these signs of ageing,” said Dr Keith Stokes, lecturer in Sport and Exercise Science at the University.

“It could be that growth hormone plays a role in maintaining the structure of our muscles and that as its production declines in our bodies our muscles begin to weaken.

“Alternatively, it could play a more general role in our metabolism by influencing, for example, whether our bodies utilise or store fat.

“Either way, producing more growth hormone through the right kind of exercise could have a beneficial effect for our bodies by slowing down aspects of the ageing process.”

Growth hormone is released from the pituitary gland in the brain and, along with other hormones, is responsible for normal growth, particularly of bone and skeletal muscle. Whilst growth hormone production is at a maximum during puberty, humans continue to produce it throughout life.

The volunteers will need to spend three mornings over the space of five weeks in the Sport and Exercise Science laboratory carrying out a 30 second ‘sprint’ on a bicycle, a 30 minute bicycle ride and a 30 minute ‘resistance’ workout using a rowing machine.

Researchers will take blood samples from the volunteers and measure their air intake, heart rate and performance.

They have already carried out the same tests on younger men, aged 18-25, but need middle-aged volunteers to complete their study.

“Unfortunately we can’t afford to pay people for their time, but we will be able to give them a fantastic run-down of their fitness levels and body composition as well as giving them advice on their dietary needs,” said Kate Gilbert who is carrying out the research for her PhD.

“Our volunteers need to be fairly fit already, not on medication and non-smokers.

“What we learn from the study could be a great help, both for people keen to offset the ageing process when they are younger and also those who want to help maintain the strength of their body as they get older.”

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