What happens to muscles as we age?
If you are the sort of person who likes to plan ahead, listen up! This month we are discussing the effects of aging on our muscle health. Ask any elderly person and they will tell you that getting old comes with multiple challenges.
Our bodies change both physically and mentally in many different ways as we get older.
When it comes to our muscles, there is one very clear rule you should get on board with… If you don’t use them, you lose them. All of us lose the amount of muscle we have in our body as we get older. It is a natural process known as ‘sarcopenia’ (sarco = flesh, penia = loss). This is a process that starts to occur from as early as 30 years of age, and continues throughout life. After the age of 50, the process picks up pace. The loss in muscle mass leads to an overall loss of strength, poorer mobility and increased risk of serious injury through falls. We are also less able to perform movements as quickly and efficiently as we used to in our younger years (i.e. we have less power in our movements).
Why the loss?
There are two very important factors to consider in regards to age-related muscle changes. First, as we get older, the number of circulating hormones in our body reduces. Testosterone, oestrogen and growth hormones all take a dive in numbers as each birthday passes. These are important hormones in the production and maintenance of muscle tissue health. Second, increasing age reduces our ability to breakdown the protein we eat in our diet in order to create our own muscle protein, which allows our muscles to grow and repair.
What can I do about it?
You can see that the body is working against us a bit here can’t you?! Well, it’s not all doom and gloom. You have the all the tools in your toolbox to ensure the effects of aging are minimal as you enter your latter stages of life. The tools are your muscles. And you just have to use them!
Let’s give you some more detail… Evidence suggests that the best way to reverse the effects of aging on muscle health is to regularly take part in progressive resistance training. A structured workout routine that targets all of the major muscle groups is a great place to start. Over time you then start to increase the reps, sets and weight of your workout to slowly build your muscle mass and strength. Muscle power can also be worked on by performing certain movements quickly. An example would be to take quick powerful steps up the stairs, or rising from a chair as quickly (and safely) as possible.
You can also supplement the effects of exercise by increasing your dietary protein intake. As your body has less ability to break the protein down, taking on a higher amount can help to bridge the gap. Healthy sources of protein include fish, lean chicken, Greek yoghurt, eggs and milk. Combining all of these aspects will give you the best chance of having great muscle health as you age.
So, the bottom line is, you are going to lose muscle, we all do. But you can stay strong and healthy! It just takes time, patience, and persistence. So what are you waiting for? You’re not getting any younger! Need advice on starting a resistance program? Call us today on 0490 911 008.
- Harvard Health Publishing. 2016. Preserve your muscle mass. [Online]. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/preserve-your-muscle-mass. [Accessed 03 Jul 2020]
- Physiopedia. 2020. Muscle function: Effects of aging. [Online]. Available from: https://www.physio-pedia.com/Muscle_Function:_Effects_of_Aging. [Accessed 03 Jul 2020]
- Siparsky, PN. 2014. Muscle changes in aging. Sports Health. 6 (1). 36-40. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3874224/.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2009. Effects of aging. [Online]. Available from: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/staying-healthy/effects-of-aging. [Accessed 03 Jul 2020]