One of the best ways to keep healthy as we age, and to live longer, is to maintain our muscle mass. I’m sure everyone over 60 can attest to the loss of strength as they age, but did you know that age-related muscle loss begins in our mid to late 30’s? It varies from person to person, and due to a few other factors which I’ll get into in a minute, but you can almost guarantee that once you hit your 40’s, your muscle mass will continue to diminish by about 5% each decade until …bang! It starts accelerating at some point after 60, and for some people right on 60.
This naturally occurring phenomenon is called Sarcopaenia. It’s a bit like Osteopaenia’s little brother in terms of public perception. But in fact this muscle loss contributes to a far greater public health outcome than Osteopaenia (the forerunner to osteoporosis). This is because maintaining muscle mass benefits not only your feeling of strength and being physically able, but also improves metabolism to reduce the risk of Type II Diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It also helps to prevent falls and physical injuries as we age, which can often act as a catalyst to further reduced mobility and psychological well-being in the elderly.
So how can you resist this natural force helping to push you into the dust sooner than expected? Strangely enough, by doing exactly what our old friend Barnaby Joyce said when a sugar tax was recently mooted – get out and exercise more, and eat well (actually he said stop eating so much if you are fat but that’s possibly another article in itself). But the magic tip is to start this ‘exercising and eating well’ fad early enough in life as to halt the acceleration of Sarcopaenia. Yes it’s never too late, but if you can up your exercise level in your mid to late 30’s, at an age when most of us have stopped playing sport and begin to feel like there are not enough hours in the day to exercise, then you will give yourself the best chance at being healthy and more physically able later in life.
And back to my physio hat – if you are beginning an exercise program from scratch, don’t let injuries and soreness slow you down. Get some professional advice and core strengthening exercises from a professional to help you on your way.