Sarcopenia is the scientific name for muscle loss and is the primary cause of a decline in the quality of life as we age!
When it comes to muscles, it is use it or lose it. Muscle loss happens early if you are inactive and sit at a desk most of the day. Muscle loss and general inactivity lead to coordination loss, flexibility ( hips, back, shoulders) loss and balance loss as you age. A lot of young people in their 20s have already lost flexibility and have lower back pain due to lack of activity. The signs of aging (loss of balance, coordination, flexibility and strength) that one expects to see in their 60s and 70s are now being seen much younger.
Have you ever seen natural bodybuilders in their 50s and 60s who look younger and healthier than sedentary folks in their 40s? Ever notice that endurance athletes age much faster than strength athletes? Compare the physique of a 50 year old sprinter to that of a 50 year old marathon runner.
I was a long distance runner in my 20s, I understand the runner’s high. Now that I’m almost 60, I know that our bodies adaptations to long distance running are the opposite adaptations that are required to maintain muscle and there are even studies that suggest that long distance runners could have cardiac issues due to constant inflammation.
I’m not saying that cardio is not important, I do enough cardio to maintain a 55 bps resting heart rate but for health, fitness and quality of life, my time is best spent weight training.
Back to sarcopenia, it leads to osteopenia and osteoporosis and because we are so inactive, this can start in our 20s. Our bodies were not designed to spend hours sitting at a desk or lounging on the sofa.
Women start becoming menopausal in their 40s. The decline of estrogen for women and testosterone productions for men hasten the physical decline as we age. If you don’t take care of yourself earlier on, the decline is even faster. But if you did and do work out, the decline is minimal. If you have never worked out, you can still reverse sarcopenia with a weight lifting program!
How strong should we be?
You should be able to get up from sitting on the floor without using your hands or arms or leaning against anything.
You should be able to do at least one unassisted pull-up.
You should be able to get into and out of a squatting position within assistance.
Steps to improve your quality of life in your 40s and beyond:
- Weight training (twice a week or more)
- Increase protein intake (protein needs increase as you age)
- Increase activity level (track your steps, work up to 10,000 per day)
- Track your sleep (topic for another day)
Invest in your health!