Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass, which causes a loss of strength and function. Sarcopenia normally begins somewhere between ages 30-40, and continues throughout a person’s life. The rate of muscle loss is commonly thought to be about 1/2 a pound of muscle lost per year-a whopping 5 pounds per decade!-and that rate accelerates after age 75.
The function of your muscles is to produce movement. It follows logically, then, that the less muscle you have, the tougher time you are going to have trying to move. The harder it is for you to move, the less active you will be inclined to be. This cascades into a host of other problems created by this more sedentary lifestyle: your bones get thinner, weaker and more susceptible to breaking; you are at greater risk of respiratory problems, such as pneumonia: and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, may develop.
Muscles are also the calorie burning engines of the body. So, having more muscle means we burn more calories, 24 hours a day. If you lose muscle mass from sarcopenia, and you keep eating the same amount (which everybody does, because you don’t even know it’s happening), you are going to get fatter. Muscle tissue gets top priority on your calories, and if your body has less muscle to feed, the extra will get stored for future energy needs-in the form of fat.
So basically, if you lose a bunch of muscle from sarcopenia, you are opening yourself up to a bunch of health issues, some of them potentially very serious – even life threatening.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Fortunately, sarcopenia is largely preventable, and partly reversible, with appropriate exercise interventions. In other words, you can stop sarcopenia, or even get some muscle back if you have lost some, by engaging in proper muscle-building exercise – namely, strength training.
The pictures below illustrate this. No, those are not prime cuts of beef from a Dunedin steakhouse. Those are cross-sectional MRI slides of the thighs of 3 different people. In each picture, the white part on the outside is skin and adipose tissue; the gray part in the middle is muscle tissue; and the black and white circular parts in the middle are the femur bone of the thigh.
The top picture is from a 40 year old triathlete. Observe that he has a LOT of muscle (gray), hardly any fat (white outer part), and thick, well defined bones (center). Pretty much just what you would expect from somebody who puts in that level of training.
The middle picture is a 74 year old sedentary male. Notice that, compared to the triathlete, his thighs mostly consist of fat; there is much, much less muscle tissue, and what’s there doesn’t appear to be in very good condition; and interestingly, his bones are much, much smaller as well. It is safe to say that this man will have a very difficult time moving, be unable to do many things that require significant leg strength, (like climbing stairs), and has at a much higher risk for fractures, due to his thinner bones.
The bottom picture is the one most salient to our discussion. This picture is from a 70 year old triathlete. Can you see how similar this picture is to the top picture? It’s almost identical, and yet the person in the bottom picture is 30 years older than the one in the top picture!
So whatever you do, keep on strength training as you get older – AND DON’T EVER STOP. The quality of your life will be significantly diminished if you don’t. If you’re not sure how to perform proper muscle-building strength training safely, find an experienced, well-educated Personal Trainer.
If you have been checking out gyms in Clearwater FL, and still haven’t found the right Personal Trainer in Clearwater, come a tiny bit farther up the street and check out Rock Solid Fitness in Dunedin FL. You can even try out a sarcopenia-preventing workout FREE, just CLICK HERE!