While we have no choice over our chronological age – the number of candles on our birthday cake, we do indeed have choice of our biological age – how old we feel.
By making good lifestyle choices you can be in your 60’s and live like you’re in your 40’s and enjoy a much greater quality of life.
One of the main downfalls of ageing is the reduced ability to perform daily tasks and the change in body composition as the years roll on, this isn’t just ageing, it’s a condition called Sarcopenia. From the age of 50, we can lose up to 3% of our muscle mass per year. It is this and the associated loss of strength that leads to the reduced quality of life. Maintenance of our muscle mass should therefore be a primary focus as we age.
The great news is that by implementing strength training and making a few other adjustments to your lifestyle, you can make a real difference to how you age and therefore reduce the impact of sarcopenia.
What are the Signs of Sarcopenia?
There are several tell-tale signs that you have sarcopenia which include:
- Finding physical everyday tasks harder
- Moving slower than previously
- Weight loss over time
Please note that these symptoms can also be indicators for other medical issues. Please check with your GP.
The image below compares a cross section of a young healthy thigh with a high level of musculature, with the thigh of an older person with sarcopenia.
What accelerates Sarcopenia?
One of the most upsetting parts of the pandemic is the affect the Lockdowns are having on peoples physical health. More sitting, increased stress, less exercise and disturbed sleep are all contributing factors to a decrease in muscle mass. The time to take action is now.
2. Lack of physical activity.
A lack of physical activity is one of the main triggers of sarcopenia, leading to a reduction in muscle mass and therefore weakness. Lack of physical activity can become a vicious cycle. If we rest, we get weak, if we get weak, we fatigue quicker, therefore making getting started harder and leaving you more exposed to injury.
3. A poor diet
Maintaining a diet high enough in protein tends to get more difficult as we age due to a host of reasons from changes in shopping habits, taste and even difficulty swallowing protein which, is typically harder to digest.
4. Inflammation following injury or illness
After injury or illness, the body sends signals to tear down and rebuild damaged cells. Chronic and long-term illnesses disrupt this rebuilding process leaving us weak and making it harder to lead a physically active life.
Chronic stress is linked with a reduction in muscle mass. Additionally, many health conditions cause stress. People with heart disease and cancers therefore tend to be more exposed to sarcopenia. This can be both to the huge stress of the body but also reduced physical activity levels.
Lifestyle changes can reverse Sarcopenia!
Strong evidence suggests that improved exercise and nutrition can reverse the effects of sarcopenia, allowing you to maintain your quality of life. Here’s how:
1. Resistance Training
The golden ticket. Performed by using bodyweight or tools such as dumbbells, kettlebells or resistance bands, resistance training places your muscles under tension which stimulates growth and therefore strength gains. Combine this with its effect on muscle promoting hormones and you have a great weapon in your battle against ageing.
2. Cardiovascular Exercise
Cardiovascular exercise such as walking, and cycling can also have beneficial effects on sarcopenia. Studies have shown, particularly in less active individuals, that cardiovascular exercise can increase muscle mass. There are of course all the other benefits of cardiovascular exercise from improved respiratory function to mental wellbeing.
Improving or fine tuning your nutrition can play a huge roll in your battle against Sarcopenia.
Protein – Increasing your protein intake to 60-90gm per day will help maintain your muscle mass and therefore strength. Try new foods with a range of proteins and try to consume at least two portions per day.
As with a lot of things in life “you take it or, it takes you.” Making just the few lifestyle interventions above will hold you in good stead and allow for a greater quality of life.
If we can help in any way, please feel free to reach out.