By: Dr. Beth Templin
One of the main issues that contributes to becoming frail as you age is loss of muscle mass, also known as sacropenia. It affects millions of older adults and leads to loss of strength and independence. You may have noticed that as you've gotten older, your arms or legs are not as muscular as they used to be. Or maybe that even though you've lost weight, your belly has gotten
bigger. These are some indications that you may be losing muscle mass.
A pound of fat weighs the same as a pound of muscle, but a pound of fat takes up much more space than a pound of muscle. A pound of fat is roughly the size of a grapefruit, while a pound of muscle is about the size of a tangerine. I bring this up because as you lose muscle mass, it is often replaced by fat.
So how do you know if you're weaker than others your age? A simple list of 5 questions can help you determine if you're at risk:
If you've answered yes to any of these questions, it may be worth taking a closer look at your overall strength. Some amount of muscle loss is natural as we age. The process can begin in our 30's, but can accelerate in our 60's and 70's, creating a noticeable decline in our independence.
To combat loss of muscle mass and strength as you age, resistance training or strength training is vital to keep muscles strong. There are various ways of accomplishing this goal, including: resistance machines, free weights, resistance bands, or body-weight supported exercises.
The most important thing about strength training is that it needs to be challenging. In order to adequately build muscle mass, you need to push yourself. The goal for most strengthening routines is to be able to perform 2 sets of 10 reps of a given exercise. By the end of the second set the exercise should feel "hard". If it doesn't, it's time to increase the weights.
Another key element in strength training is performing these activities every other day. When you perform strength training activities at an appropriate intensity, you actually create small tears in the muscle. This is not a bad thing. Your body repairs these tears and makes the muscle stronger in the process. That's why it's so important to have a rest day in between to allow the muscles to properly heal and get stronger.
Even if you've never participated in a strengthening program before, you can successfully start one and reap the benefits, no matter your age. You may need to start with lighter weights initially, but as soon as that becomes easy, it's time to increase the weights. If you're unsure where and how to start, come join us during our Strength class!
Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ maximize their independence and fitness, so they can continue to enjoy a full and active life.