Massage therapists know firsthand how the aging clients’ musculature differs from that of someone younger and, perhaps, in better physical shape. New research provides new insight into age-related muscle decline.

The research shows about 3 percent of the air we breathe gets converted into harmful superoxides, which ultimately harm our muscles.

Specifically, these superoxides lead to the creation of a toxic molecule called “reactive oxygen species” or ROS, which is shown to be particularly harmful to muscle tissue, and may lead to problems ranging from aging and frailty to Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

“At a minimum, we hope this research leads to new ways of addressing inevitable declining physical performance and other age-dependent infirmities among the elderly,” said Atanu Duttaroy, associate professor of biology at Howard University in Washington, D.C. and one of the researchers involved in the work.

The research was published in the September issue of the journal Genetics.

“As baby boomers get older, the need to help older people stay mobile and fit has never been greater in our lifetimes,” said Mark Johnston, the journal’s editor in chief. “This study helps address this need by providing insight into what causes physical decline, and in turn, bringing us a step closer toward finding ways to stop or reverse it.”

On Oct. 5 MASSAGE Magazine reported on other research that identified critical biochemical pathways linked to the aging of human muscle