If you’re under the age of forty, you may not have thought much about what your life as a senior is going to look like. However, muscle mass decreases by about eight percent per decade after the age of thirty if proper measures aren’t taken to retain the strength you have. So it’s a topic that should be on everyone’s radar, regardless of age.

If you’re not doing anything to counteract and slow down the process of muscle decay, you’re only going to grow weaker with time. The number one cause of accidental death in adults over the age of sixty-five is falling, and the best way to prevent falls is to build strength, balance, and coordination, which happen to be the key benefits of resistance (weight) training.

What you need to know about muscle loss (and how to prevent it)

what is muscle decay

Muscle decay (or sarcopenia) is experienced by about ten percent of adults over the age of fifty. Loss of muscle mass can negatively impact your quality of life through decreased mobility and strength. For those with sarcopenia, everyday activities such as climbing stairs, getting up off the couch, or even standing up off the toilet (yikes) can become challenging or uncomfortable, never mind more physically challenging endeavours such as running or hiking.

Though some causes of sarcopenia are out of our control, there are a few factors within our control that can affect the rate of progress, including diet and exercise. For example, malnutrition contributes to muscle decay in those who do not consume enough high-quality protein and micronutrients to support muscle protein synthesis. And exercise can combat muscle decay through the building and maintenance of healthy muscle mass.

the impact of resistance training

Strength training may prevent or reverse sarcopenia completely. Performing challenging strength exercises causes mechanical stress and damage to muscle tissue, which, ironically, makes them stronger. Our bodies are built to adapt to stress, which means our muscle cells react by recovering and rebuilding stronger than before. Through the repetition of this process, we can maintain or grow our level of muscle mass.

training to fight decay

The purpose of resistance training is to maintain or build muscle through use. Consistent repetition of strengthening activities such as plyometrics, weight-lifting, or jumping maintains our lean mass. As a general guideline, we recommend strength-training activities at least twice a week to support muscle maintenance: three sets of ten repetitions per muscle group is a good benchmark to aim for. 

If your goal is to build more muscle, three to six workouts per week with the appropriate application of progressive overload will be necessary. 

final words...

Though the changes that come with age and time can be daunting, there are many ways we can maintain our strength (and overall health) as we age – and exercise is a really important one, for many reasons. 

That said, starting an exercise routine if you’ve never done it before – or trying to figure out what to do on your own – can be daunting, which is where Nielsen Fitness comes in. Our trainers are here to provide guidance and support on your journey towards a healthier, happier, and stronger you. Contact us today to request a free first workout! 

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