We all lose muscle, but what can we do?06 April 2017
I have never liked going to the gym – bright lights, sweaty machines, loud music. I would much rather go for a surf, play golf or just play with my kids.
Exercise for health’s sake was something that I struggled to accept. I just wanted my exercise to be fun! But as a Physio I knew I had to accept reality, which is my body is better off if I mix up my types of exercise. Incorporating resistance exercises is a great way to keep some of the muscle bulk that I will inevitably start to lose, so I’m back in a gym.
With age, we all suffer from a progressive loss of muscle mass which occurs from approximately 40 years of age. This loss has been estimated at about 8% per decade until the age of 70 years, after which the loss increases to 15% per decade. Muscle bulk is important as it has a direct correlation between joint protection and the longevity of a joint.
I often get asked by concerned clients if they can do anything to reverse this ageing muscle loss and build muscle especially after joint replacements or injury. Well, it’s always difficult to answer such questions, as there are numerous factors for every individual. There are some studies which show it is possible and others that say that whatever muscle you lose once you’re in your 70s, you’re highly unlikely to get it back. For that matter, the same is true for the 8% per decade that you start losing after the age of 40. Not that it’s impossible to put on muscle after 40 ‑‑ it’s just that the deck is increasingly stacked against you.
Factors such as general health status and nutrition in conjunction with appropriate physical activity can help attenuate the rate of physical decline, preserve functional independence, and maintain quality of life.
From a practical point of view, I would start with doing some easy body weight exercises to get your muscles used to exercising this way, like squats and lunges. Then look to join an exercise group or gym, exercising 2‑3 times a week (if you are coming back from an injury then you would need to do specific exercises daily).
James Mooney, Physiofamily