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Are You Losing Strength as You Age? It Might Be Sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is a condition that everyone over the age of 40 needs to know about.

In essence, sarcopenia is the gradual loss of muscle strength and mass.  For people who live to an old age, it is probably the biggest risk to their health and independence.

Sarcopenia is defined as a syndrome characterized by progressive and generalized loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, with the risk of adverse outcomes such as physical disability, poor quality of life and difficulty completing activities of daily life. This decrease in muscle mass is directly responsible for functional impairment with loss of strength, increased likelihood of falls and loss of independence.

Although sarcopenia is primarily a disease of the elderly, its development may be associated with conditions that are not exclusively seen in older persons, like disuse, poor nutrition an underlying health issue such as cancer or metabolic syndrome. Excluding a serious health condition, after adults with sarcopenia on average lose 3% of their muscle strength every year.

Given the consequences, detecting early signs of sarcopenia is extremely important and includes feeling physically weaker over time or having more difficulty than usual lifting familiar objects. Furthermore, decreased strength can show itself in other ways too, including walking more slowly, becoming exhausted more easily and having less interest in being active. These signs of sarcopenia are the result of diminished muscle strength.

Years of research and data accumulation has shown that the most effective way to prevent and even reverse sarcopenia is by keeping your muscles active through resistance training. Resistance training includes doing exercises against an external resistance. This can be moving your body part against gravity, pulling of resistance bands, using weights or utilising various cable machines.

When you perform resistance exercise, the tension on your muscle fibres results in growth signals that lead to increased strength. If this form of exercise is repeated regularly, consistently and progressively over time it results in the growth of muscle cells and prevents the loss of muscle mass that is characterised by sarcopenia.

Many people falsely believe that they are too old to prevent sarcopenia and there is nothing they can do about getting weaker and frailer.  Research and observation of clients tells us a different story.  By working with an Exercise Physiologist to tailor a personalised strength training program.  Adults well into their 90s have been able to reverse the decline in strength and even build muscle.

As a bonus, having strong active muscles has been shown to stimulate other organs, including your brain, to continue regenerating and making new cells, thereby delaying the effects of ageing in your whole body.

A small investment of time and effort to do strength training is probably the most important thing you can do to enjoy a healthy and independent life for many years.


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