Depending on your age, you may have noticed that certain physical activities that used to feel so easy now require more effort. The reason for this might be related to something called sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss. According to a recent study by Harvard Health, sarcopenia can already start around age 35. Generally, this form of muscle atrophy occurs at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year. Once you’ve entered your sixties, the process will most likely accelerate to around 3 percent per year. Does this sound scary to you? Don’t worry – there are ways to significantly slow down the process.
How do people lose muscle mass?
You already know that when you stop training, it is a matter of time before you start losing muscle mass. For most of us #fitgirls, working out is relatively easy when we’re in our twenties: we’re young, fit and motivated and we can always manage to squeeze in a workout, even when we’re busy. And then at some point, life will get in the way. You may start a demanding full-time job, have a baby, get injured or sick. Or maybe it is a simple shift in priorities that cause you to train less frequently than before - or quit altogether. Decreased activity or training will inevitably lead to muscle loss. This is the most common reason that people tend to get less fit as they get older. However, if you do manage to maintain the same level of activity, a decrease in the size and/or number of muscle fibers may also be caused by not getting in enough protein and amino acids. You could train just as frequently as before, but if your diet is not as balanced, chances are you will still start to lose muscle mass (read up on the importance of getting your protein, if you’re not convinced).
What can you do to prevent muscle loss?
Looking at the causes of age-related muscle loss, the solution is fairly simple: keep training and watch your diet. If you want to get a head start on prevention, it is recommended to do weight training at least 3 times a week, ensuring that you target a different muscle group each day. In other words, instead of doing a full body workout 3 times a week, you could for example target your legs and glutes on day 1, your core and back on day 2 and your shoulders and arms on day 3. And no, you don’t necessarily need to go to the gym to have an effective workout. In fact, body weight exercises are perfect to prevent muscle loss. Push-ups are super effective (this is how to make your push-ups more effective), just like sit-ups, squats, lunges and planks. And you don’t need any equipment to do them. And if you still want to turn it up a notch, you can always add dumbbells to your exercises.
It is very normal for our priorities to shift as we get older. And while you may reach a point where you couldn’t care less about how much muscle mass you have, it is still important to try and slow down the process of age-related muscle loss. Losing muscle mass hinders your ability to recover from injuries and illnesses. Aside from that, it can also attribute to other health-related issues. And your health should always be your top priority, regardless of your muscle mass.