Strength Training Protects Muscle Mass as You Age
Throughout the ages people have recognized that as someone grows old their muscles waste away, they become frail and weak and their bones become brittle. This condition although a very old phenomenon has a relatively new name. Dr Irwin Rosenberg came up with the name saropenia in 1988 for the loss of skeletal muscle mass in hopes of raising public awareness.
In the coming years, sarcopenia is predicted to be one of the biggest health problems the world faces. It is suddenly a very hot topic in aging research as it has a devastating effect on the quality of the last 10 -15 years of a person's life.
Most seniors are aware of the dangers of the bone thief osteoporosis, a disabling disease that robs people of their bone strength. Sarcopenia may not be as well known but is an equally crippling condition which leads to loss of muscle mass, strength, function and mobility. These two conditions usually go together tending to track each other through the years. If muscle is being lost, bone density is being lost as well. Strong muscles that are active muscles create tension on bones helping to prevent bone loss. The old use it or lose it scenario.
Often osteoporosis is labeled the villain when deadly falls and bone fractures in older people take place. But the real villain is sarcopenia causing muscle weakness - in particular leg muscle weakness which can cause these falls.
If you are between 30 and 50 and even if your weight has remained stable through these years, you have probably lost a significant amount of lean muscle tissue. Even if you participate in regular aerobic exercise (like jogging or swimming) and consider yourself a healthy individual, slow, sneaky muscle wasting can go unnoticed for years or even decades. The body hides this loss by padding the affected areas with extra body fat. So maintaining your weight on the bathroom scales does not mean muscle isn't vanishing.
The average rate of muscle loss is 300 grams per year after age 30. After age 50 this loss continues to increase with a mostly silent velocity subsequently bleeding it's victim of up to 500 grams of muscle a year. This can render a person eventually unable to perform simple everyday tasks and robs them of the ability to take care of themselves.
People worry about getting a life threatening disease such as cancer or having a heart attack when they get older. But a much bigger threat to health is not about falling victim to some dreaded disease, but creeping frailty. This is what stops many older people from remaining as strong, active and energetic as they would like - or from living independently.
The simple reality and the simple solution to this is a proper balanced exercise program that includes 60% strength training exercise and the rest cardiovascular interval training prescribed by a Fitness Professional. Strength training is critical to preserving muscle. Aerobic exercise, (jogging, swimming, cycling) while it strengthens the heart and lungs, isn't sufficient by itself to hold back Sarcopenia.
Once you begin rebuilding your strength you will also experience positive benefits in other areas of your life. The stronger and fitter you become the more active you will continue to be. You can then enjoy activities that you thought were gone forever. This will increase your quality and enjoyment of life.