Getting older is an inevitable part of life; it just comes with the territory. However, older doesn’t necessarily have to mean weaker.
Most of us take our muscles for granted—that is, until we start to lose them. After the age of 60, we can lose as much as one pound of muscle every year. But that doesn't mean we have to accept it! There are things we can do to slow down the loss of muscle, and even build some extra on top of it.
With a little effort, we can keep our muscles strong well into our golden years.
Loss of muscle mass and strength is sometimes known as sarcopenia, from the Greek word "sarx” which means flesh, and “penia” which means loss.
This is one of the leading causes of falls, which is the leading cause of injury or death among those aged 65 and up.
Sarcopenia can cause not just bodily harm, but also social isolation as a result of the falls, which can have a cascading effect on both mental and physical state.
The natural aging process results in people losing muscle mass and strength as fibrous tissue and fat replace muscles. Folks between the ages of 60 and 70 have lost 12% of their muscle mass, while those over 80 have lost 30%.
This is more than just flabby arms and droopy skin. Muscle loss causes varying degrees of inability to perform everyday activities such as walking. This sets off a chain reaction, leading to results such as slower mobility and loss of balance, limiting your ability to fully enjoy your life.
At the cell level, the aging process leads the body to become less receptive to muscle growth signals, or anabolism. This causes muscles to receive more teardown signals, or catabolism.
In addition to the natural aging process, sarcopenia has many causes, including:
Also, heart disease, pulmonary disease, a decline in testosterone or estrogen levels, and chronic illnesses like type-2 diabetes are all linked to sarcopenia. Hence, this is why we are losing muscle more rapidly after we turn 60.
While it is obvious in some people with mobility issues, other telltale signs are:
Fret not! There are a few things that you can do to slow the loss of muscle mass.
Moving parts of the body against gravity, weightlifting, and pulling against resistance bands are all examples of resistance exercise.
The strain on your muscle fibers during resistance exercise causes growth signals, which contribute to improved strength, boosting the activity of your growth hormones.
These signals cause muscle cells to develop and repair themselves, both by producing new proteins and by activating "satellite cells," which are unique stem cells that strengthen existing muscle. Because of this, resistance exercise is the most direct technique to improve muscle growth and avoid muscle loss.
Sarcopenia can be controlled by sustained exercise that boosts your heart rate and cardiovascular health, such as aerobic exercise and endurance training. Flexibility and resistance training have been incorporated in most trials of aerobic exercise for the treatment or prevention of sarcopenia as part of a combined exercise regimen.
Aerobic activity with resistance training can increase effectiveness, so add some weights to your fitness regimen. One of many options is to bring along some weighted bands or other light weights on your walks.
Hiking, cycling, and jogging a few times a week will also significantly contribute to muscle mass. Start small! Go for a 15-minute walk every other day then gradually increase the duration and frequency.
You may be at a greater risk of muscle loss if you're low on certain vitamins and minerals.
Walking can also help to slow sarcopenia, so get those shoes out and go for a little trot around the block. Start slow and work yourself up to a good hour’s walk a day, gradually increasing the duration and speed as your fitness levels let you.
As the saying goes, life begins at 60. This may be true, but the journey is not always easy. After all, getting older can bring its fair share of challenges, like the various physical changes happening to your body.
It's crucial to remember that the aging process is a natural part of life, and there are plenty of ways to make the most of your golden years.
Stay fit and happy, and we wish you all the best for your health!