For the elderly, less muscle mass means not only a loss of strength, but also increase in the chances of injuries from falling. It’s a sad fact that muscles shrink as adults age. But new studies are starting to unravel how this happens, and what to do about it. Read on to know the truth!
Yesterday, someone asked me: “I am a 70-year-old man in good health. I’ve lost substantial amount of muscle mass. Is there any way for me at this age to recover muscle mass without resorting to steroids?”
So, the pertinent question is: “Is it true that the muscle mass we lose, say, at 60+ years age cannot be regained?
Can You Regain Muscle Mass After Age 60+?
Let me put the good news straight at the outset: You can regain and rebuild the aging muscles, even if you are 60+ older. Some new research studies have shown that weight training may help older people to retain, and even recover muscle mass.
To quote Dr. Marcas Bamman, the director of the UAB Center for Exercise Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham: “Our lab and other studies have shown repeatedly that older muscles can grow and strengthen with exercises.”
The US National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health carried out a study on exercise dosing to retain resistance-training adaptations in young and older adults. In the said study, men and women in their 60s and 70s were put under weight training. They were kept under observation. It was found, that:
(i) The older men and women developed muscles, which were as large and strong as those of the average 40-year-olds.
(ii) The process of bulking up works differently in older people than in the young.
According to Dr. Bamman:
(i) The skeletal muscles comprise of various types of fibers. He says two things happen to these fibers after you reach middle age. Some of the muscle fibers die, particularly if you have not been exercising your muscles much.
(ii) Sedentary adults can lose 30 to 40 percent of the total number of fibers in their muscles by the time they are 80. Rest of the fibers remain alive but shrink and atrophy as you age.
(iii) Seniors can increase the size of their atrophied muscle fibers with exercise. However, exercise for some physiological reasons cannot add to the number of muscle fibers.
Tip: The older folks for all practical purpose don’t need to worry because they can make their older muscles larger and stronger if they work them.
(iv) The key to gain muscles in old age is regular and progressive weight training. If you don’t go to a gym, consider joining one, and then work on tiring yourself.
Useful Related Post: Exercise For 60+ Year Old Women And Men
(v) In order to kick the biochemical processes that lead to larger, stronger muscle fibers, you should push your muscles until they are exhausted.
Dr Bamman carried out a study, in which the participating volunteers used weights calibrated so that the lifters could just perform a set of 8 to 12 repetitions before their arms or legs grew leaden and they had to rest. They repeated each set 2-3 times and visited the gym 3 times a week.
Useful Related Post: Getting Fit And Fitness Over 60
Tip: If you are new to weight training, ask for an orientation at your gym or talk to an athletic trainer who usually works with older clients.
In another study, detailed in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it has been shown that the blood flow and supply rate of nutrients & hormones is lower in the older people, which is a prime cause why muscle wasting occurs in old age.
Exercise plays an important role of increasing blood flow to the legs and other body parts of older people to a level identical to the younger group. This increase in blood flow helps in controlling the muscle loss in old age.
Are you a senior person? What exercises do you do? Please share your experience with us under the comments section below.