Updated: Jun 8
As we age, left to itself, our muscle mass reduces and strength and power decline. Sarcopenia—defined as age-related muscle loss—can begin as early as the age of 35 and may occur at a rate of 1-2 percent increasing to 3 percent a year after the age of 60 .
So, how can you tell you're losing muscle?
Many a times you can't, because its a gradual process, and you aren't really paying attention ( sorry, but its true!). However, others around you may notice something different. A relative , a friend or even one of your children may comment-"How is it that you are walking so slowly these days? " That's a sign.
Then there may be other subtle signs you should look out for, like you passing on the jars to your children to open or close them. A few years ago, you probably had no such trouble. Sitting down or standing up may become slower. Writing or typing may feel like too much trouble.
All these are signs that your muscles aren't what they used to be. Now to be realistic, as you age, things aren't going to be like they used to. But things can get better than they are, if you ACT NOW.
If you have any chronic disease or a debilitating condition which prevents you from having an active life, age related muscle loss only adds insult to injury. Many chronic diseases will be associated with a muscle loss that occurs due to the disease itself (as in Diabetes) or due to the associated weakness and lack of exercise thereof.
Whatever the reason for muscle loss, a vicious cycle is created and needs to be broken in order to have a better quality of life.
Benefits of building muscle:
Improves metabolism which helps to lose weight. (Muscle burns more calories at rest than fat)
Improves cholesterol levels improving cardiovascular health.
Improves sugar levels and helps manage your Diabetes.
Improves breathing capacity and lung functions , especially in those with COPD, who already have a compromised respiratory function.
Reduces pain and improves function in those with bone and joint disorders like Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis etc.
Reduces fatigue and reduces the rate of further muscle loss in any person with a chronic debilitating disease like cancer.
Strength training to build muscle
By improving muscle mass, strength training can increase muscle power, muscle strength , flexibility, balance and coordination.
While aerobic exercises are a must for everyone as they have great cardiovascular benefits, strength training has equally important health benefits including cardiovascular benefits.
What is strength training?
Strength training involves adding resistance to a particular movement to overload the muscles, which makes them work harder and become stronger. Contrary to common belief, its not only for body builders .And no great equipment is needed. Most exercises can be started at home, so don't wait!
Use it or lose it!
Its possible to reverse some muscle loss at every stage. But, if you don't flex a muscle today, you won't have any to flex tomorrow.
I found a great resource for strength and balance training for seniors, but feel free to check it out if you are a beginner!
Notes: Make sure you follow a proper diet to maximize the benefits of strength training.
Always consult a physician before starting any exercise program.