AUG 01, 2019 9:09 PM PDT

Preventing Sarcopenia In Older Adults

WRITTEN BY: Abbie Arce

The loss of muscle mass associated with aging, called sarcopenia, begins at about age 30 and continues throughout an individual's lifespan. This muscle loss has several negative consequences including a greater likelihood of suffering a fall and higher likelihood of bone fractures. Research suggests this muscle loss happens at a rate of about 1.0 to 1.4% per year as a person gets older. That said not only is this condition preventable, it is also reversible through strength training. 

Muscle weakness in persons of any age is highly associated with both physical disability and mortality. The risk to a person's health associated with muscular weakness increases with age if preventive measures are not taken.

While injury and death are more likely in those with weak muscles a person is also less likely to be capable of completing daily living tasks. This loss of mobility and strength greatly reduces a person’s independence and quality of life.

There is also evidence linking muscular weakness to diabetes, cognitive decline, and premature all-cause mortality.

Sarcopenia is likely caused by a number of factors. These factors are thought to include a sedentary lifestyle, impaired protein synthesis, and chronic inflammation. Disuse of muscles is of concern because inactive individuals have double the risk of mobility limitations than do their peers who meet physical activity guidelines. 

For these reasons, exercise scientists suggest the use of resistance training programs to improve muscular strength in adults of all ages. Properly designed exercise programs can help extend independent living, reduce the likelihood of falls, improve quality-of-life. This type of exercise also supports metabolic health and insulin sensitivity amongst a vast number of other benefits. These health gains help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and lifestyle diseases. 

Despite the incredible volume of scientific support for such programs, only 8.7% of older adults participate in this type of activity. The most often reported barriers to resistance training include fear, concerns regarding contraindications, pain, fatigue, and a lack of social support.

These concerns suggest the need for recommendations and public health initiatives targeting older adults. In many cases, people are unsure of how their health concerns will be impacted by the addition of such fitness programming. That said, even the illest of patients can benefit from some form of exercise being added to their routine. Appropriate recommendations for persons with diabetes, cancer, hypertension and more can be provided by fitness professionals.  

The above video goes into detail about the many benefits of exercise for older adults and the risks of avoiding it. 

 

Sources: Journal of Strength and Conditioning ResearchTED

About the Author
  • Abbie is an AFAA certified personal trainer and fitness instructor with an interest in all things health-science. She has recently graduated with her BS in Applied Sport and Exercise Science from Barry University in Miami. Next, she intends to earn an MPH with a focus in Epidemiology.
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