The saying goes there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. But we should also add loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia) to the list.
Research suggests we reach our peak muscle mass in our 30s after which it starts to decline. By the time we are hitting our 60’s that muscle loss can be irreversible.
So what? you may say.
The loss of muscle mass can impact on your quality of life as you age. Less muscle makes you weaker and less mobile, both of which may increase your risk of falls and fractures. A 2015 report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research found that people with sarcopenia had 2.3 times the risk of having a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist.
I’m sure we can all think of an older person we know who is frail and has poor movement patterns, just as we all know older, super active and mobile people. I want to be one of the latter!
Scary stuff when you think 60 isn’t old these days.
- what causes muscle loss?
- what, if anything, can we do to slow, prevent or even reverse it?
For men and women, muscle loss is a common side effect of aging.
For women in particular – menopause not only gives us hot flushes, but can also increase the rate of muscle loss.
Women over 50 are less able to store protein than men. According to the Washington University Newsroom, a 2008 study published in the “Public Library of Science (PLoS) One” found that women over age 65 have a decreased ability to use protein from their diets to build muscle mass compared with men of the same age group. Although these effects may begin earlier than age 65, the most significant changes occur well after menopause has begun.
Decreased protein storage as well as muscle loss in general, is caused by estrogen, or lack thereof. Women over 50 produce less estrogen than younger, premenopausal women. According to the website Medscape, a study published in “Clinical Science” journal demonstrated that women who receive hormone therapy after they reach menopause experience less muscle loss than those who don’t.
An inactive lifestyle may make you more prone to muscle mass later in life. It’s the old “use it or loose it” adage.
Here’s the good news!
There are two main ways women can prevent accelerated muscle loss after age 50.
1 – ALL women should do resistance exercise on a regular basis.
Resistance exercise includes:
- lifting weights as well as exercises like
- squats and
2 – Eat enough protein, which helps build muscle and prevent muscle loss. Protein is the queen of muscle food.
Good sources of protein include meat, eggs, nuts, fish, full fat plain yoghurt.
Protein powders can offer about 30 g per scoop and can be added to all kinds of meals like oats, shakes, and yogurt. Food sources are the best, a protein supplement can help if you struggle with consuming enough protein from your regular diet.
Muscle POWER, not just strength
Power is how fast and efficiently you move and is more connected to every day activities than pure muscle strength.
A good way to increase power is through your legs which are responsible for your mobility and have big muscle sets (think quads, hamstrings and glutes – your powerhouse).
Try doing quick movements against resistance (eg your body weight). eg sit down and try and come to standing quickly. When climbing stairs, push off each step as fast as possible.
PS: As with anything, when embarking on a new training regime, seek expert advice to ensure that you do the movements accurately to avoid injury and also maximise the time you spend exercising. You want to get the most out of your efforts!
www.goforfit.com.au – contact us for safe, varied, fun training!