Age & Muscle Loss (Sarcopenia)

Every story starts somewhere. We start not at the beginning and not at the end but about halfway along, somewhere along age 55.  Aging is unforgiving and it is accompanied by a progressive decline of muscle mass, muscle quality and muscle strength, a condition known as “age related sarcopenia

Primarily from middle-age, a 1% per year loss of muscle mass occurs. On average, people lose about 30% of their muscle power between ages 50 and 70. In severe cases a loss of up to 50% can be experienced by the age of 80’s’-90’s.

Age-related sarcopenia includes factors such as hormonal imbalance activity, lack of movement or inactivity, poor nutrition, chronic illness and loss of neural integrity and function in the peripheral and central nervous systems. One interesting hypothesis is that mitochondrial deterioration in muscles and motor neurons is the primary initiator of sarcopenia.  Mitochondria is the powerplant to all cells! Well, I know of a way to increase the quality and number of your mitochondria.

Exercise: Resistance training/lifting weights has long been the number one most promising method for treating sarcopenia. Understanding how age, gender and hereditary affects muscle-related gene expression, protein recycling and protein turnover will dictate how one can use weight training to our advantage.

Weight Training: Weight training has been shown to be beneficial across all age groups including those with chronic illness. Some of the most noteworthy benefits include an increase in muscles density and neuromuscular patterning and a ability to perform activities of daily living, such as carrying groceries, getting out of a chair, taking out the trash, walking and climbing stairs, gardening, and better balance and coordination.  But general weight training might not be enough.

It is possible that targeting specific dysfunctional mitochondria areas and increasing healthy mitochondria in motor neurons and muscle fibres could provide a better strategy for reducing sarcopenia.  Science has shown that resistance training can enhance muscle mass and function even in 90-year-old subjects. The theory is that by targeting specific dysfunctional mitochondria areas and increasing healthy mitochondria in motor neurons and muscle fibres with specific exercise can fast track muscular function in age related sarcopenia.

Many studies have shown that with eccentric weight training adults with sarcopenia receive greater benefits than traditional concentric weight training alone, improving muscle strength and mobility function. Benefits of eccentric training is that it produces relatively greater force with lower energy consumption, making it an attractive option in strength programs to improve physical performance.

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