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 Staying Stronger for Longer: Addressing Sarcopenia with Exercise

Staying Stronger for Longer: Addressing Sarcopenia with Exercise

(NewsUSA) - Muscle health is just as important as bone health over the lifespan. When a decrease in muscle mass leads to a reduced quality of life and an inability to perform everyday tasks, it could be sarcopenia—the loss of muscle and strength that can happen when someone gets older and does less physical activity. Sarcopenia is particularly concerning among women because the peak muscle mass and strength they achieve in their mid-thirties tend to be lower than for men. This means that when women start losing muscle, they feel the effects sooner than men.

Sarcopenia generally becomes noticeable beginning at age 40. Common symptoms of sarcopenia include weaker muscles, reduced walking speeds, increased difficulty with day-to-day tasks, and falls. Sarcopenia risk is affected by age-related factors, like hormone changes that affect muscle mass and the body’s reduced ability to absorb protein, and behavioral factors, like physical activity levels or lack thereof.

Muscle-strengthening activity can help older adults decrease their risk of developing sarcopenia and maintain a high quality of life. When individuals strengthen their muscles and rebuild muscle mass, they may improve their balance and reduce their chances of falls and fractures. In addition, they are better able to perform daily activities like carrying groceries, standing up from a chair, or playing with their grandchildren.

“Staying active not only helps decrease your risk of getting sarcopenia, but it also can improve your quality of life, mental health, and independence,” advises Dr. Dorothy Fink, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health.

Adults and older adults should engage in muscle-strengthening activities at least two days per week. These exercises should include all the major muscle groups: upper body (abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) and lower body (legs, hips, and back). The goal is to move and contract the muscles, rebuilding muscle and strength over time with adequate nutrition and physical activity.

Starting and maintaining a physical activity routine does not require special equipment or a gym membership. Individuals can start at home with simple activities like arm curls, holding soup cans that serve as weights, crunches, bent knee raises, and lunges.

When starting a new physical activity routine, it is recommended that individuals take it slow and build up their number of sets or gradually increase the number of days they get active. Enlisting a partner or friend may be beneficial to stay motivated to exercise. Partnering with someone provides accountability and encouragement for both people, which may inspire them to continue being physically active week after week.

The beneficial effects of exercise in addressing sarcopenia are best when coupled with a healthy diet that includes enough protein, which helps build and maintain muscle mass.

If you have questions about sarcopenia or want to change your exercise routine or diet, consider consulting a health care provider to discuss your goals, ask questions, and seek personalized advice.

For more information on exercising and other ways to help reduce the risk of sarcopenia, visit the Stronger than Sarcopenia campaign webpage, provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health:

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