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Planning Retirement Online

Sarcopenia - get a grip!


November 2011 

SarcopeniaMany people as they get older find that their strength diminishes and often it is a weakness in the grip or the arms that first draws our attention to the loss of power.

Like most problems these days, there is a proper medical name. The degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with ageing is known as sarcopenia. Evidently generally we lose around 0.5 to 1% of our muscle mass and strength every year after 25, quite a scary thought. Sarcopenia contributes to the overall frailty that often develops in older people.

It is easy to say the sarcopenia develops because we simply don’t use our muscles as much as we did when we were younger, and therefore they deteriorate, but in fact it is a little more complicated than that.

Certainly, as expected, if you lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle then it is easier to develop sarcopenia – use it or lose it!! But research it a little further and you will discover that sarcopenia is related to a decline in hormones, proteins and to cellular death. A combination of these aspects can lead to age-related loss of muscle mass and this means nutrition as well as exercise needs to be looked at.

Enthusiastic body builders incorporate high protein foods into their diets, and at any age it is important to ensure adequate protein intake for muscle build. If you have doubts about the level of protein intake you require, seek help from a professional nutritionist; health clubs can also advise on diets for specific health, exercise and muscle building routines for all ages.

Many older people take up walking or jogging to exercise their heart and this can also be good for sarcopenia as it can contribute to muscle build. However, by far the best way to counteract muscle weakness is with resistance training. This requires the use of weights to build muscle.

The good news is that you don’t have to start in young or middle age to stop the decline. Research now shows that older people have actually managed to reverse sarcopenia by redeveloping muscle mass. Increasing protein intake also helps to build muscle; combine the two and you could be facing a healthier, more active old age.

One American report shows that older people who undertook resistance training for 45 minutes three times a week for three months managed to increase their muscle fibre by 32% and their strength by 30%.

Resistance training with weights needs to be done properly or you can do more damage than good. There are many sources of good advice, from online to health clubs and fitness shops. Just buying a pair of weights or dumbbells is not enough, you do need to use them properly and regularly to keep safe and build muscle.

Once you get into the build and use of muscles, a whole new world of science opens up. For instance, building extra muscle helps to burn more calories during normal activities which can reduce the fat off your arms and legs helping to keep you fitter.

It is easy to assume that muscle weakness is just a normal part of ageing. It now seems this is not always the case at all – so now is the time to get a grip on your muscle mass!

 


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