People are getting older and so age-related muscle wasting is becoming a bigger problem. But something can be done about it.
The technical term sarcopenia describes the age-related decrease in muscle mass and function. This is a completely natural phenomenon that begins relatively early, but really only becomes noticeable from the age of 60 or 70. Then the muscle mass has reduced so much that the frequency of muscle injuries, severe falls, obesity and diabetes increases. In addition, sarcopenia means that the muscles are still used less, because everything is getting more and more difficult. As a result of this increasing inactivity, the sarcopenia is further exacerbated, which leads to a vicious circle.
When does sarcopenia start?
The process that shows up as sarcopenia in old age begins relatively early. The human body begins to gradually reduce muscle mass at around 25 years of age. However, this process is accelerated again from around 65 years of age, which is why most problems arise from this age and many people increasingly cannot cope without outside help. If you look at the decrease in muscle strength over several decades, a 20-year-old person has an average of 30% more strength than an 80-year-old.
Causes of age-related muscle wasting
As mentioned earlier, decreasing muscle mass is a completely natural process. To date, the mechanism behind muscle loss is not fully understood. However, there are a few factors that play a role in this. Many of the factors that accelerate sarcopenia can, however, be controlled by behaviour. For example, a lack of exercise, poor diet or even chronic illnesses accelerate the process.
Consequences of sarcopenia
A progressive sarcopenia leads to bigger and bigger problems in everyday life because it leads to
- reduced grip strength
- lack of balance
- Problems getting up
- increased risk of falls and injuries.
The good news is that we are not at the mercy of age-related muscle wasting. Mechanical loads such as B. strength training we can even partially reverse the sarcopenia. Even in older and frail adults, strength training can increase the size and function of the skeletal muscles, at least partially reversing the age-related decline in performance.
Another important factor is a balanced diet. Only when the body receives all the important nutrients in sufficient quantities can it build new muscles.
Strength training carried out twice a week effectively counteracts muscle wasting. The training effect can be further increased if, in addition to strength training, conditioning training as well as stretching and balance exercises are carried out.
30 years younger
A study compared the values of trained 70-year-olds with those of untrained 40-year-olds. The result was surprising: there were NO differences between the trained people aged 70 and 30 years younger but untrained in terms of isometric peak strength, muscle fibre cross-sectional area, and the development of force and torque. Regular training and an active lifestyle can slow down the breakdown of muscle mass and function by several decades.