As people get older, their muscle mass shrinks and strength and power go down. This can result in reduced mobility and a higher risk of injury. The process also starts earlier than you might think.
But you can slow it down with strength training.
Age-related muscle mass is medically known as sarcopenia, comparable to osteopenia and bone osteoporosis. However, it receives far less attention. It can begin around age 35 and occur at a rate of 1-2 percent per year for the typical person.
After age 60, it can accelerate to around 3 percent per year. Those who don’t combat the loss with strength training can lose 4-6 pounds of muscle mass per year. This is also weight that you may notice on the sale because it’s being replaced with fat.
The attack of muscle loss is a two-headed monster: fast twitch muscle fibers, which give you bursts of power, are lost at a higher rate than slow twitch muscles. This means you’re not only getting weaker but slower and less powerful.
The weaker your muscles get, the faster you can lose independence. Everyday activities like getting dressed, walking, cleaning, and shopping can become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to perform independently.
Weak muscles also make it harder to recover from an illness or injury. In fact, some numbers suggest that disability rates are 1.5 to 4.6 times higher for people older people with moderate to severe sarcopenia than those with normal muscle mass.
Weakness also makes it harder to balance and move, boosting fall risk.
The best way to combat muscle loss is with regular weight training. Performing exercises using bodyweight, resistance bands, kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells, or machines can all help you maintain and build muscle mass with age.
Work with weights two or three times per week, targeting all your major muscle groups – legs, back, shoulders, chest, core, and arms. If you need help with technique, contact a fitness professional or view tutorials online.