Sarcopenia, from the Greek, “poverty of flesh”, is the age- related decline of skeletal muscle mass and the associated loss of strength.
One of the biggest problem for athletes a regular-exercisers over 40 is the loss of power and strength due to the decline in lean muscle mass as we age. This trend accelerates even more quickly after the age of 50.
Between the ages of 30 and 80 we lose an average of 30-40% of our muscle strength. What literally happens is our body breaks down our muscles as we age. This process is called catabolism and happens to an extent in all of us but is much more pronounced in people who do not exercise regularly.
The consequences of sarcopenia can be far reaching and devastating to your health and can be a predisposing factor in many conditions associated with ageing. Including, falls and fractures, impairment the ability to regulate body temperature, decreased metabolic rate, a loss of functional capacity to carry out daily living tasks and hence the ability to live independently and is now being considered a major factor in adult onset Type 2 Diabetes.
It is now recognised that sarcopenia is a preventable and treatable condition and requires exercise that is anabolic to overcome the disuse and wasting of muscle tissue.
Anabolic exercise involves resistance training, that is weight bearing exercise and ideally, lifting weights.
At a recent conference I attended Prof. Maria Fiatarone Singh, one of Australia’s leading researchers into reversing and preventing the ageing process, presented ground breaking research showing that resistance training at high intensity, especially lifting weights, can have a dramatic effect on reversing and slowing sarcopenia as well as helping many other effects of the ageing process.
The science is clear- if you want to stay vital and healthy or be a competitive athlete well into your masters years- do what I do- find something heavy lift it up, put it down, lift it up again and again and again and….
The Masters Athlete. Ed Joseph Baker, Sean Horton, Patricia Weir
Sarcopenia: a potential cause and consequence of Type 2 Diabetes in Australia’s ageing population. David Scott et al. Med J Aust, 2016
Lecture Prof. Maria Fiatarone Singh. Australian Chiropractors Association of Australia Annual Conference 2018.