Muscle loss as we age?
As many as 50 percent of people over the age of 60 suffer from some level of muscle loss – to the point that it is affecting their health – according to research by the American College of Sports Medicine, the Institute on Aging, and the American Council on Exercise (just to name a few). This type of muscle loss is referred to as sarcopenia. And while the end result can be as serious as osteoporosis (bone loss), most people aren’t even aware that they have it.
As you can see, muscle loss can be a very big problem. So, what can you do about it? The simple answer is resistance exercise, also known as strength training or weight training. As little as two months of resistance training can increase a person’s strength by 40 percent. That means you can reverse the affects of two decades of muscle loss in 60 days.
The most important thing to remember to reduce muscle loss is to strengthen the big muscles around the thighs, shoulders, arms, and back. This can be done with as few as 6 exercises using weights, weight machines, your own body weight, or some simple objects from around the house.
Another key is to make sure that you are getting enough protein. If you eat too little protein, your muscles get smaller and weaker. The US-RDA for protein consumption is about .36 grams per pound of body weight, or 55 grams for a 150-pound person. But some studies have shown that if you are exercising your muscles, you need about 25 percent more protein than the RDA just to maintain your muscle mass. And, to gain muscle mass, you should consume 50 percent more protein than the RDA suggests, which is about half your body weight in grams of protein. This translates to 75 grams of protein for a 150-pound person.
So, if you want to prevent muscle loss as you age, or replace some that you have already lost, you need to start doing resistance training and eat enough protein. The rewards in improved health will be well worth the effort.
WHY DOES THIS MUSCLE LOSS TAKE PLACE AS WE AGE? SOME OF THE REASONS INCLUDE:
Women start out with less muscle so when they lose it, there are bigger consequences.
As we age, many of us eat less. And, in particular, we eat less protein.
Loss of nerve cells
In addition to losing brain cells as we age, we also lose motor nerve cells that send messages to our muscles.
Not enough muscle stimulating exercise
If we don’t do the right kind of physical activity regularly, our muscles start to deteriorate at the rate of over 10 percent per decade.
Slow down of muscle metabolism
Our ability to make muscle protein decreases as we age.
Some people just have good genes.
There are a number of ways that muscle loss can affect your health. It is estimated that we lose about 10 percent of our muscle mass every decade after the age of 30.
HERE ARE A FEW CONSEQUENCES OF MUSCLE LOSS
Muscles are crucial for maintaining balance. The more muscle you lose, the more likely you are to suffer falls.
Muscles put stress on bones, which makes the bones stronger. People who lose muscle have less healthy stress on their bones and will end up with weaker bones.
Most of your calories are burned by your muscles. The less muscle you have, the fewer calories you burn and the more your body stores as fat.
More fat is deposited in your muscle cells, which can lead to insulin resistance and an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
This can reduce your ability to do even simple everyday tasks like grocery shopping, climbing stairs, or playing with your grandchildren.
By Thomas D. Manfredi, M.S.