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Why We Lose Muscle as We Age and How to Prevent it

Posted on June 8, 2021 by Iliana Stoilova

Worried about losing muscle mass as you age? You’re not alone. It is a valid fear and happens to almost everyone. Why is that? Because as we age, Sarcopenia starts to occur and we can lose anywhere from .5%-1.5% muscle mass (averaging out to 1% per year, so 10% per decade) and about 1-3% of our strength per year. So how can we combat this? Strength training can slow this process and even reverse it. Interestingly, University of Florida researchers found that individuals who are aerobically active (running 10k’s and 1/2 marathons) still lost muscle mass at the same rate as their sedentary counterparts. Those that strength trained saw less degeneration.

Sarcopenia starts to occur around the age of 50. The overall prevalence of sarcopenia was 17.3% in men and 24.5% in women. Rates of sarcopenia increased with age in men older than 60 years, and after 85 years of age, the prevalence of sarcopenia in men exceeded that in women. Sarcopenia is due to many factors including a loss of motor neurons and muscle fibers, type II fiber atrophy anabolic resistance (i.e. less muscle protein synthesis after protein ingestion, resistance exercise and insulin) and impaired muscle regeneration.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms of sarcopenia are low muscle mass or gradual loss, overall weakness, and lower stamina, which affects physical activity levels. Lower physical activity levels also further contribute to muscle shrinkage. The primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise, specifically resistance training or strength training. These activities increase muscle strength and endurance using weights or resistance bands. Resistance training can help your neuromuscular system and hormones as you age, too.

When it comes to sarcopenia, prevention is key. By monitoring your diet, nutritional supplements, exercise, and possibly hormone replacement therapy can be appropriate steps to combat muscle deterioration. Strength training can increase muscle mass and can improve older adults’ functionality, strength, endurance, and general health in addition to preventing sarcopenia. The right kind of strength training is the most important factor. Knowing what exercises are best for your body and muscles is imperative to getting the most out of your workouts. At X-Force Body, we will work with you to create a plan of action for your training. In summary, sarcopenia affects many people as they age but can be prevented and sometimes reversed with the correct strength training exercises, diet and supplement monitoring.

More facts:

• A lot of times, people aren’t overweight, they are under-muscled. In addition to preventing sarcopenia, strength training can actually help you build your muscle back up and help you lose muscle-harming fat.

• Sarcopenia is the loss of skeletal muscle mass due to aging. Maintaining skeletal mass is critical not only for remaining physically independent but also for survival.

• More than 18 million Americans suffer from sarcopenia. One in three adults over 60 have the disease, and that number increases to over 50 percent by the time they reach age 80.

• Beginning in our 30s, every single human being on earth develops sarcopenia. Every year we get weaker and weaker unless we proactively work against muscle loss. The erosion of strength accelerates in our 50s and continues to increase as we move into our 60s. By our mid-70s, there is an exponential increase in the loss of lean tissue.

• Sarcopenia can cause muscle weakness, frailty and loss of independence. With the loss of muscle mass comes the loss of balance. Elderly people affected by sarcopenia are at a greater risk of falling and injuring themselves.

• Although vitamins and supplements can help in preventing sarcopenia, strength training is the only proven treatment for sarcopenia.

• You can counteract the loss of muscle with strength training, which will have a positive effect on other aspects of your health, both mentally and physically.

• We’re living longer. Strength is critically important to enjoying the extra four or five decades that we each have been given through medical science advances over the last century.

• It is recommended that you strength train at least three times a week as you age for combating the devastating effects of sarcopenia.

The moral of the story is to not just be active, but to strength train in order to combat muscle loss as we age. By continuing to strengthen your muscles in different ways as you grow older, you lower your risk of Sarcopenia and other degenerative conditions. Fighting Sarcopenia by getting started on a strength training program in your 40s or older, especially if you haven’t exercised regularly, can be intimidating. We’re here to help. At X-Force Body, we want to take the next step with you on your wellness journey and will be there every step of the way to support you, educate you, and help you achieve your best self. 

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