It Can Happen, But Don’t Despair.  Read On.

A fitness program that includes resistance training can forestall muscle loss.

Sarcopenia or muscle wasting is a condition which affects almost everyone starting about 50 years of age.  Do you have it?  Look in the mirror: Your once proud biceps and pectorals have sagged, your pants are falling down, no more butt, your legs look skinny. What looks like loose skin is really the loss of muscle. You find yourself skiing on easier slopes, minding how you climb stairs, playing less aggressive tennis, and basically losing muscle tone.

Is all lost? No, indeed.  A prominent medical school subjected a group of older folks who used walkers to a resistance training program.  In 90 days, they were able to ditch the walkers!

Apparently, the secret is a resistance training routine with some dietary changes.  A structured program in resistance, i.e., weight lifting, similar to a body builder’s program is the key.

In addition, older folk do not process proteins well. When it’s snack time, we go for crackers or other carbohydrates. This subdues your appetite but contributes nothing to your protein intake and robs your body of the space that could be utilized for protein.  Find a protein source for your snacks.  I am fond of beef jerky. Or try Greek yogurt, trail mix, almonds, peanut butter and celery, and others. Check here for ideas. Protein drinks are okay, but don’t use them as a meal replacement.

Light weights are good for bone density and muscle mass preservation.
Credit: SeniorsSkiing.com

Resistance training for seniors is a case of make haste slowly. There is potential for injury and an untrained individual needs to be careful. Proper form is absolutely critical for injury prevention and instruction by a professional is required, either at certified trainer at a gym or a physical therapist.

Medicare covers about 20 physical therapy visits a year. Get a referral from your primary care provider. Medicare with a United Healthcare supplement (AARP) has the Silver Sneakers Program which allows you unlimited visits to a gym on the program.

If you do have some resistance training experience but have been lax for a while, start off slow.  Start with a lower body workout—squats, lunges—that use your body weight only for four weeks.  Then add light dumbbells. A weight which allows you to complete three sets of 10 reps without undue exertion is the signal to increase the load, never more than about 10 percent.

Don’t forget your upper body. Most gyms have an array of weight machines which reduce balance issues.  Once again, find a personal trainer for a couple of visits to learn the form and reduce the chance of injury.

Follow your program three times a week.  You will feel stronger in a month, see results in two months and by the third month you will have developed a life-long habit.

As with all exercise programs, seek the advice of your medical professional and get expert help in starting out.

 

2 Comments

  1. Peter McCarville says:

    Great article but it is Sarcopenia, not sacropenia.

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