After years of focussing on your career and family it’s easy to arrive at a stage of life feeling a bit worse for wear and as if it’s ‘too late’ to make significant changes to your lifestyle.
However, by making just a couple of changes we can significantly improve our quality-of-life moving forwards.
If not addressed, from the age of 45, 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 and a reduced ability to perform many physical tasks we took for granted.
This is condition called sarcopenia and by adjusting your lifestyle you can make a real impact.
What are the Signs of Sarcopenia?
There are several tell-tale signs that you have sarcopenia which include:
Reduced strength over time
Reduced ability to perform previously achievable daily tasks
Reduced walking pace
Weight loss over time
Please note that these symptoms can also be indicators for other medical issues. If in doubt, please check with your GP.
The image below compares a cross section of a young healthy thigh with good musculature, with the thigh of a person with sarcopenia.
What accelerates Sarcopenia?
One of the most upsetting parts of the pandemic is the affect the Lockdowns are having on people’s physical health. Less activity, increased stress and disturbed sleep are all contributing factors to a decrease in muscle mass.
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.
3. Poor diet
Maintaining a diet high enough in protein tends to get more difficult as we age. From changes in shopping habits, taste and even difficulty swallowing protein which, is typically harder to digest.
5. Stress & Inflammation from Illness or injury
Chronic stress is linked with a reduction in muscle mass. Additionally, chronic and long-term illnesses disrupt this rebuilding process leaving us weak and making it harder to lead a physically active life.
Lifestyle changes can reverse Sarcopenia!
Strong evidence suggests that improved exercise and nutrition can reverse the effects of sarcopenia, allowing you to significantly improve your quality of life. Here’s how:
1. Strength Training
Strength 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. In less active individuals, cardiovascular exercise can increase muscle mass.
Improving or fine tuning your nutrition can play a huge roll in your battle against Sarcopenia. Protein is key – increasing your intake to 1 / 1.5gm per kg of bodyweight per day will help maintain your muscle mass and therefore strength.
Making just the few lifestyle interventions above will hold you in good stead and allow for a greater quality of life moving forwards. Next month we’ll look specifically at strength training. Good luck!