Losing Muscle Mass Is Dangerous - Are You at Risk As You Age?Jan 28, 2024
When I had glandular fever more than 20 years ago now, I was advised by my doctor to stay in bed for 6 weeks. Most of the time I was too sick to think about moving and even getting to the bathroom was a challenge. Due to a painful sore throat that was like swallowing razor blades, I rarely ate anything and only drank liquids. Around the 5 week mark, as I was starting to recover, I sat up in bed and looked down at my legs. What I saw shocked me - I burst into tears. My previously strong legs looked like matchsticks. I knew straight away I had lost muscle mass. How would I ever be able to teach dancing again? At the time, with zero advice from my doctor and youth on my side, I started back at dancing and gradually regained muscle mass but I also developed chronic fatigue syndrome which is possibly linked. If I had known what I know now, I would have done things differently. Let's look at the importance of maintaining muscle mass especially as you age and how you can ensure you aren't at risk of developing a range of debilitating conditions.
Why Are Muscles So Important?
Skeletal muscles are attached to our bones by tendons, which contract and pull on our bones, causing movement at joints. This movement allows us to move our bodies. They help us to maintain our upright posture and support our spines. Muscles also generate heat as they contract, helping to regulate body temperature. During physical activity or in cold environments, muscle contractions produce heat to keep the body warm. They help to protect our internal organs, aid blood circulation around our bodies, and contribute to our metabolism and energy expenditure. They also play a crucial role in nerve conduction. As you can see they are vital for our health so let's look at what happens when we lose muscle mass which is called sarcopenia.
What is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is a medical term used to describe the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function that begins in our 40s. It is a natural process but can be accelerated by factors such as a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, chronic illness, and certain medications. As people age, they tend to lose muscle mass and strength, leading to decreased mobility, increased risk of falls and fractures, and a decline in overall quality of life. Sarcopenia is often associated with frailty and can contribute to other health problems in older adults such as cognitive decline, cardiovascular disease, and increased risk of obesity.
How Can I Prevent Sarcopenia?
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, losing muscle mass will be a gradual decline until one day when you begin to notice you don't have the strength and mobility you once had. If you have an illness or surgery that prevents you from moving for an extended period, like I did with glandular fever, be aware that you may need rehabilitation to help regain your previous level of fitness. Nutrition plays an important role too as an adequate intake of protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Staying hydrated helps with muscle function too. Make time to include regular exercise in your weekly schedule. Walking, dancing, swimming, cycling and Pilates are all ideal for maintaining muscle mass. If you have any concerns that you are losing muscle mass and you aren't aware of the cause, consult your medical practitioner.
Pilates For Maintaining and Increasing Muscles Mass
Pilates includes resistance training and helps to strengthen the core or abdominal muscles as well as the whole body. My online Pilates studio is ideal for rehabilitating after an illness or surgery and preventing the natural loss of muscle mass as you age. There is a strong focus on balance training, bone health, and whole-body strengthening from the feet upwards. My on-demand video library allows you to practice Pilates daily at a time that suits you. Small daily doses of therapeutic movement such as Pilates, is highly beneficial for maintaining and increasing muscle mass, and my 1 on 1 virtual Pilates sessions are designed to cater to your individual needs. Being aware of any loss of muscle mass is beneficial for taking action before your situation becomes dangerous. Knowledge is power and maintaining and increasing your muscle mass as you age is an empowering feeling. No one wants to spend their later years frail with limited mobility and vulnerable to falling.
If you want to begin Pilates training and increase your muscle mass as you age, email me at [email protected] to get started. Alternatively, you can book an Initial Assessment with me here or take the free 10 day trial of JS Mind Body Pilates, my online studio, and start straight away. It would be my pleasure to assist you on your Pilates journey to maintaining strong muscles as you age!