Good News, High School Athletes: Muscles Can Remember Their Former Strength

Were you a jock in high school? A new study says your body can easily recover its former strength.

Maybe you played some football or were on the swim team back in high school—but you’ve long since settled into a more sedentary lifestyle, and those glory days can never be regained. Right?

Turns out, muscle memory is good for more than just remembering how to ride a bike. According to a new study from University of Oslo, your muscles may actually remember their former strength, making it much simpler to return to your previous level of fitness than if you were starting from scratch.

“Our findings suggest that there are permanent structural changes in the muscle,” physiologist Kristian Gundersen told NPR’s All Things Considered. “We don’t know if they’re really permanent, but they’re very long-lasting in animals, at least.”

In the study, a group of mice were put on a strength training regime in their treadmill, then were permitted to go back to their usual habits. The researchers then used specialized miniature cameras to examine the mice’s muscle nuclei, which Gunderson compares to “small factories that will produce new muscle.” The nuclei had not diminished at all, proving that the mice could easily continue building muscle mass if they resumed their intensive exercise routine.

The study suggests that it’s easiest to build up muscle nuclei when you’re young—so, if you’re still in the prime of your youth, now’s the time to run a few laps. Your body will thank you for it later.