Aging and Losing Muscle Mass
Often, we see weight training as being about having a beautiful, muscular Adonis-built body. However, everyone should make strength training a part of their physical activity routine, since it is for more than just cosmetic purposes. Why? Because we start losing muscle mass early in adulthood, and this becomes more pronounced as we age. This affects our physical condition and the efficiency of our metabolism. Especially since muscles are very important for the health of our precious joints. We must therefore adopt, as soon as possible, good habits to preserve our muscle mass.
“Sarcopenia”: the scientific name given to muscle loss that occurs with age. This is an inevitable part of the aging process. In fact, from the age of 30, we lose up to 8% of our muscle mass within a decade, i.e., up to 40 years of age. This happens again the following decade. We risk losing around 16% of our muscle mass before the age of 50. However, in your 50s, sarcopenia accelerates to 1–2% each year.
You should know that our muscle mass directly affects our metabolism. This is because larger, good-quality muscles require more energy from our bodies to function, be maintained and repaired. Given this, when muscle mass decreases, metabolism slows down. The muscle mass we lose is often replaced by fat, which accumulates especially in the abdomen in men, and in the hips, buttocks and thighs in women.
Why does our muscle mass decrease?
Our muscles, like the rest of our body, are made up of cells that are constantly renewing themselves. However, with aging, the balance between cell destruction and cell renewal is no longer the same. One of the reasons for this is that the body is no longer able to assimilate proteins in the same way and transform them into muscle tissue.
In addition, it should be mentioned that our sedentary lifestyle participates in these changes within our body. Our bodies are made to move, but we spend long periods of time sitting, and therefore doing activities that require little physical effort. Combine this with an unbalanced diet and reduced regenerative functions of the body, and all the factors are in place for muscle mass to decrease slowly, but steadily.
Building muscle is the solution!
To reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle and to slow sarcopenia, it is essential to incorporate strength training into your physical activity routine. We recommend a frequency of 2 to 4 times per week for maximum benefit. To do this, several activity options are possible:
- Strength training at a fitness centre or gym. People who are starting an indoor training process should seek the guidance of a trainer or kinesiologist
- Strength training can be done at home, just using your body weight. Several simple programs are available online
- Activities like yoga and Pilates are pretty gentle on the body, but have benefits, such as increasing muscular strength and flexibility.
The key to getting the maximum benefit from these activities: stay motivated! To be motivated, it is important to choose bodybuilding activities that we like, but also to vary them. Where possible, it is good to share these active moments with friends, or to join group activities. We can thus spread the pleasure of training, and benefit from the additional motivation that is instilled by others.
Don’t neglect diet
By combining regular strength training and a balanced diet, sarcopenia can be prevented or slowed down. Since the body’s ability to assimilate and process proteins decreases, we must make sure to consume enough food on a daily basis.
Adults are therefore advised to consume 0.8 g of protein for each kilogram of body weight. Thus, a 68 kg (150 lb.) person should eat at least 54.5 g of protein everyday. Since appetite tends to decrease as you get older, you need to adopt the right strategies to have a balanced diet every day and have an adequate intake of protein. We suggest this article which offers tips for maintaining a healthy diet as you age.
It is never too early, or too late, to adopt a healthy lifestyle. This type of lifestyle prevents the loss of muscle mass as you age, as well as many health problems!