Losing Muscle Mass as We Age

A portrait of bald senior man in the gym training with dumbbells. People, health and lifestyle concept

When we are young and full of health and vitality, it is easy to live in the moment without any consideration of what our quality of life will be like as we age. When we are twenty years old and full of spunk, we cannot see ourselves being old and frail. However, as grains of time in the hour glass continue to rapidly drain from the top, we find that time has gotten past us and thirty years or better have flown by in the blink of an eye. None of us are immune from this.

Aging can come with some great benefits, such as wisdom from life experience and memories, whether good or bad.  However, one challenge we can all face over time is the loss of lean muscle mass. This is a condition known as sarcopenia. Losing strength as we get older can make daily tasks harder and over time can cause you to become less independent.

Photo by Fillipe Gomes from Pexels

Can it be stopped?

Yes, this condition can be stopped, but you have to make lifestyle changes early on in order to get the best results out of your actions.

By keeping your muscles strong, you can stay independent longer and continue doing the things you love without needing much help from others. When we are twenty years old, we never want to see ourselves as being old and frail in a nursing home because we no longer have the capability to take care of our basic functions of life. When we are young, whoever stops to consider they might need a caretaker in order to get on and off the toilet and to help us with our basic hygiene needs. Yet, this happens every day, and the people this happens to are getting younger and younger all the time. It is not uncommon today to see people laid up in nursing homes  during their fifties for ailments that we used to only think of being issues for the true senior citizens among us.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Things that accelerate muscle loss

As you age, your body can change in ways that surprise you. One of the most noticeable changes is weakness and loss of ease of motion. Your lifestyle and overall health play a key role in how fast those changes occur. Factors that can increase muscle loss include:

Inactive lifestyle: People with sarcopenia who lead sedentary lives are also at greater risk of osteoporosis. This is because active muscles send signals to bones that help them stay strong. The drop in strength from sarcopenia means people may be more prone to falls and bone fractures. muscle loss is largely accelerated by inactivity. As we get older, we tend to move less. But exercise is one of the key signals that our body needs to keep our muscles strong and healthy. Without that signal our muscles start getting smaller and weaker over time. None of us are immune from this!

An unbalanced diet, low in proteins: Eating protein also acts as a signal to grow and maintain muscle. However, as we age, we tend to have smaller appetites and eat less protein, increasing the risk of muscle loss. Protein is an important nutrient for everyone, not just athletes and body builders. Humans can’t survive without all nine essential amino acids. Protein is essential to building bones, and body tissues, such as muscles, but protein does much more than that. Protein participates in practically every process of a cell. It plays a part in metabolic reactions, immune response, provides a source of energy, assists in cellular repair, forms blood cells, and more. As we age, these issues become even more critical to our health and well being.

Inflammation or swelling:  Medical conditions that cause muscle loss can often be avoided through proper diet and exercise. Lower levels of the hormones testosterone and estrogen, higher levels of body fat, insulin resistance and higher levels of inflammation are other reasons why older people lose muscle more easily than younger people. In fact, all of these factors combined lead to something called “anabolic resistance”. This means the body doesn’t respond as well to the signals that normally cause muscles to grow. However, you do not need to be a victim to these conditions when you have committed yourself to a healthy lifestyle that includes proper diet and regular exercise.

You can control many of the factors linked to muscle loss. Managing your health conditions and making the right lifestyle changes can help you build and keep your strength. We can’t stop ourselves from aging, but we can slow down some of its effects. While increased physical activity is important to maintain your overall health and well-being, engaging in strengthening exercises at least 2 to 3 times each week is your best defense against muscle loss. By continuing to use your muscles, you’ll be working to keep them strong.

You don’t need expensive exercise equipment, a personal trainer, or even a gym membership. Common forms of physical activity and exercise that can help build strength and keep you mobile include:

Walking, stair climbing, and biking

Strength training with resistance tubes and bands

Yard work (mowing, gardening, and planting)

Becoming more active can energize your mood, relieve stress, help you manage symptoms of illness and pain, and improve your overall sense of well-being. And reaping the rewards of exercise doesn’t have to involve strenuous workouts or trips to the gym. You can gain the benefits from adding more movement and activity to your life, even in small ways. No matter your age or physical condition, it’s never too late to get your body moving, boost your health and outlook, and improve how well you age.

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. You are so right, David! With all the modern comforts and conveniences, people simply forget to move. They take elevators to the 2n floor, they fight for the closest parking spot to the entrance, and, worst of all, they spend their days sitting.

    1. David Yochim says:

      Yes Ma’am, and sadly this is more and more the younger generations.

      1. I see that supervising student interns in classrooms.

      2. David Yochim says:

        I bet you do.

      3. Happy Veterans Day, dear David! Thank you for serving!

      4. David Yochim says:

        Bless you Dolly, I truly appreciate that my friend.

      5. It’s my honor and privilege, David! Many blessings to you and the other veterans for your service.

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