You just don’t want to wait too long to find out.
Of course, it depends a bit on how much muscle you had to begin with. If you lifted weights, lived an active lifestyle, or performed some heavy labor, you’ll have a lot more muscle to lose than if you weren’t very active or worked a desk job.
Either way, muscle loss is faster and harder to recover from the older a person gets.
Age-related muscle loss, called sarcopenia, is natural. But prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to muscle atrophy and accelerate the process. The consequences can be severe and include weakness, poor balance, frailty, and loss of independence.
Sometimes atrophy is unavoidable. Injuries that take a person off their feet, autoimmune illnesses, poor nutrition, or chronic conditions can all cause it.
But the biggest cause is physiologic atrophy, meaning that muscles simply aren’t used enough for extended periods. Osteoarthritis, for example, can make activity difficult, but a sedentary lifestyle is a major cause of muscle atrophy,
Atrophy can lead to:
- Weakness in upper limbs that make it difficult to raise your arms or reach for objects above your head
- Trouble opening jars, holding pens, typing, etc.
- Muscle twitches/cramps
- Poor balance and a higher risk of falling
Muscle can atrophy rather quickly, but it can also be regained. So, if you’ve lost muscle or are afraid of losing it, beefing up activity is the way to do it.
Weightlifting is ideal. Safely using dumbbells, barbells, resistance bands, or body weight to add resistance to muscles helps them grow and get stronger. Remember to target both upper and lower limbs.