Sarcopenia: The age-related involuntary loss of muscle mass and strength. Beginning as early as the fourth decade, humans will slowly begin losing muscle at a slow but constant rate with an eventual loss of 50% by the 8th decade of life. On average, muscle mass makes up 60% of total body composition. So by our 8th decade, it is possible to lose up to a quarter of our bodies simply due to age-related decline compounded with sedentary behaviour. Skeletal muscle is an important metabolically active tissue that our bodies rely on for many physiological functions. A loss of this magnitude has profound consequences on our strength, agility, balance and basic physiology that will dramatically hinder one's quality of life. Sarcopenia has been linked to the risk of falls, cognitive decline, increased insulin resistance, fatigue, increased likelihood of chronic disease, rheumatoid arthritis and more.
Sarcopenia is the result of a wide range of physiological factors but, it is dramatically accelerated by a sedentary lifestyle. This is why it is so important that older adults continue to physically challenge their bodies as they age. The team here at Total Body Health wants you to understand that “getting old” is not all about decline. In fact, research has consistently shown that age-related loss in muscle can be halted, and even reversed with consistent strength training and appropriate nutrition.
How does resistance training decrease sarcopenia:
1. Continue to reinforce/rebuild neural pathways between the brain and muscles. “Keeping the connection”
2. Promote protein synthesis (creating proteins that repair/rebuild muscles)
3. Increase circulating growth hormone levels (promote the building of new muscle, increase bone density, increases capacity for exercise
The image below compares MRI images of the quadriceps muscle of a 40-year-old triathlete, a 70-year-old sedentary man showing significant signs of sarcopenia and, a 70-year-old triathlete who effectively halted the effects of sarcopenia by continuing to be active through his entire lifetime.
Although resistance-based exercise is the primary intervention for reducing the effects of sarcopenia. There are additional dietary steps that can be taken to help ensure that our muscles have the nutrients to rebuild and stay healthy. It is recommended that older adults have a protein intake of 1.6-2.2g per kilogram of body mass to promote the growth and maintenance of lean muscle mass. Creatine supplementation has also been shown to improve muscle maintenance and function as we age.
Take charge of your body, allow yourself to fall (figuratively and literally) into disability as you age. It is never too late to prepare yourself for a long, healthy, happy future!