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Feel sore after exercising? Your muscles are sending you a message

Posted February 17, 2017

After some intensive exercise our muscles feel sore and weak. However, it takes just some time for them to fully come back to normal and in that process they are actually getting stronger. But how? A new research from The University of Queensland has revealed the mechanism of how muscles deal with fatigue after unaccustomed exercise.

Muscle soreness is just your body asking for some rest after intense exercising. Image credit: U.S. Air Force Photo/Staff Sgt Araceli Alarcon via Wikimedia, Public Domain

It is very interesting and odd at the same time that scientists did not really know the mechanism of how muscles recover. Pretty much all healthy people have experienced muscle fatigue more than once in their life. It does not always take some extreme exercising routines to bring soreness to one’s muscles. However, only now scientists managed to describe the cell physiology of the recovery process. It turns out, the pain in muscles actually has a purpose. It may be very uncomfortable, but it is actually a good thing – it is a message from our body, telling us that it needs a day of rest.

This is a self-protection mechanism of sorts. Muscles are damaged from excessive exercise and hurt as they are in need of repair. The soreness and weakness in muscles prevents person from putting even more stress on his muscles and so we are forced to rest. The research was not easy. Scientists took samples of human thigh muscles at three points in an exercise cycle and monitored the condition of the muscle before exercise, as well as 24 and 48 hours after. Scientists found that calcium level raise and damage muscles during such exercise. There are small cavities inside the muscle fibres where calcium can accumulate, which help muscle to recover. However, while it is happening, further stress in not recommended.

Dr Bradley Launikonis, author of the study, explained: “The soreness a person feels is the body saying it is fatigued, that the muscles are vulnerable, and it’s time to rest”. This process has never been described in such detail before, so it could potentially spawn other discoveries as well. Furthermore, it serves as a proof that human body is extremely adaptive and can protect itself from overload. One can only imagine that if muscles were not sore, they could be damaged even further by another session of too harsh exercising.

Scientists say that eventually this knowledge could help treating people with conditions affecting muscle tissue. For example, people suffering from muscular dystrophy. However, until such breakthroughs are possible to reach, much more research is needed.


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