Read on here about: (i) What Happens To Muscles As We Age? (ii) Can we build muscles in old age? & (iii) How a senior can build muscles?
From the time we born to the time when we reach about 30, our muscles grow bigger and stronger.
What Happens To Muscles As We Age?
But at some point in our 30s, we begin to lose muscle mass, strength & functional abilities progressively.
This age related muscle loss is called as sarcopenia. Sarcopenia with aging leads to loss of muscle mass, strength, power, and reduced functional abilities.
This is a major reason for the development of frailty as we age. It occurs progressively with increasing age. This explains why your ability to perform day-to-day living activities declines with age. And also why there are higher chances of falls & fractures in old age.
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Physically Inactivity & Muscle Loss
People who are physically inactive can lose muscle mass as much as 3% to 5% every decade after age 30. However, even if we are active, we will still suffer some muscle loss with age.
Muscle loss typically occurs faster around age 75. But it may also speed up as early as 65 or as late as 80.
Muscles And Seniors
Muscle keeps us strong in our old age. It burns fat calories (fat) and helps in managing our weight. Moreover, it is also an important contributor to our bone strength & balance. Without adequate muscle mass, we can lose our mobility and ability to live an independent, active life.
Is It Ever Too Late To Build Muscle?
I have good news too! You can gain muscle mass at any age with exercise. A study was conducted on older adults in Boston. The participants, 100 male & female (age range: 72 to 98 years of age; average age 87), did Weight Lifting with their legs 3 times in a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, it was found that there was an increase in thigh mass of 2.7%, walking speed by 12%, and leg strength by a huge 113%!
There is a similar study of older adults (65-79 years age), in which the participants lifted weights 3 times in a week for 3 months. It was found an increase in their walking endurance by 38% (from 25 minutes to 34 minutes) without considerable increase in mass.
Ida Weiss, a 91-year-old participant in the Boston study, said after the study: “It has benefited me a lot. Things that I was unable to do when I came here, I can do them now and I feel different.”
Exercises can be vitalizing and help gain muscle mass at any age.
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Preserving/Building Muscle Mass In Old Age
The major treatment for slowing down muscle loss & building it is exercise, particularly Strength Training or Resistance Training. These physical activities enhance muscle strength & endurance – typically using weights or resistance bands.
These types of training can also help recuperate our neuromuscular system, hormones. They also can boost an older adult’s capability to convert protein in to energy in as little as 2 weeks.
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The duration, intensity & frequency of strength or resistance workout are the key factors for getting the most benefit with the least risk of injury.
Watch out for the second part of this article.