Strength training can help people build muscle mass to assist in the fight against the debilitating effects of age until they reach 80, a new study says. The key for the 80 plus group is to keep moving, as the ability to generate and maintain muscle mass decreases beyond your 70’s.
A Ball State University study, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, found that while six men in their 80s did get somewhat stronger, their whole muscle size and fiber size did not grow during a 12-week training regime.
"We know that there is accelerated muscle loss as we get older," Scott Trappe, director of Ball State's Human Performance Laboratory, said in a university news release. "The best way to keep our muscles from shrinking is through resistance training, which allows our body to maintain muscle size and strength as we go through our 60s and 70s."
Looking forward from our 60s and 70s, one has to think about mobility and ability to have functional use of the extremities used for daily living. Hip and leg strength, to continue to ambulate, or get out of a chair, or bed. Chest, arm and shoulder strength to open doors, pick up groceries or drive a car. All of these basic functional muscle uses, fade with age, if not worked on, as we age.
Trappe said aging eventually causes the loss of "fast-twitch" muscle fibers, reducing the ability to produce the explosive movements that allow us to move our feet and arms to keep from falling. The concurrent loss of slow-twitch muscles, the large ones found in the legs, thighs, trunk, back and hips, weakens posture as well. Together, these losses make it harder to balance and maintain an independent life.
"At this point," he said, "I would advise people to actively engage in some sort of resistance training once they hit their 60s. From our study, once you hit the threshold of 80, that may not be possible."
A 2003 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, estimated U.S. health care costs directly attributed to sarcopenia, the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, exceeds $26 billion. Indirectly, sarcopenia has contributed to a doubling of home health care and nursing home expenditures to $132 billion annually.
The best way to fight the effects of aging is to get in to an exercise program and keep moving. The more our lifestyle trends to sedentary, the less likely we are to maintain balance, strength, stamina, and musculature. It’s not so much about what you may be like today, it is more about who, and what you can, or will become tomorrow.