Muscle mass loss (Sarcopenia)

Age related loss of muscle mass and strength (also known as sarcopenia) is a major cause in functional decline and increasing fragility or frailty in older people.

Such factors often increase the risk of falls and other injuries, upping your chances of breaking something, requiring hospitalisation, further health problems and loss of mobility and independence.

Beyond our mid 30s, sarcopenia is an inevitable process UNLESS we work at maintaining or increasing our muscle mass and function.

I’m not suggesting everyone rushes out and starts power lifting, but incorporating exercises or physical activities that focus on building strength or performing movements that are not easy peasy throughout (i.e. a bit of effort is needed), done at least twice per week is the way to go.

Current NHS exercise/physical guidelines suggest activities that use all major muscle groups should be performed at least twice per week. Please see link below.

More and more people are getting some cardiovascular based exercise into their routine, which is fantastic and highly beneficial, but more needs to be done in the strength building category.

Strength training shouldn’t be shied away from because of your age or gender. It’s important for everyone whatever their age. Just start and progress at an appropriate level.

And it’s not just about ‘being stronger and fitter’. By increasing muscle mass, you lower your chance of osteoporosis (brittle bones), you will maintain the ability and independence to do more of what you want to later in life, and some studies are showing that better muscle mass amounts enhance immune function……..yes you did read that correctly! It’s to do with T cell production and I have also included a link to this study below, which also discusses regular exercise reducing ageing, plus other benefits.

One of the important factors is keeping your exercise up regularly and looking at it as a lifetime plan, not just for the short term. You can of course change the activities you do and mix it up a bit if it gets boring or stops being enjoyable.

I see or hear it all too often with my middle age-older patients in clinic – about how they struggle to get up from the floor, lift up things that were once easy to lift, pick up the grandchildren, or simply undo jar lids. This does not sit well for me and I feel rather strongly about it.

I’m always very determined to encourage people to keep their bodies working, so as to future proof older age, and wherever you are in your life, whether you are 45, 65 or 80, make a positive start now!

Start slowly and lightly, gradually building over time. Choose something that you enjoy and makes you feel good either during or after the activity. Do not exercise if you feel unwell or are exhausted.