Health Alert 37
Did you know that you are losing about 3 pounds of muscle mass per decade? Most people don’t. They don’t notice because the lost muscle is replaced with fat. Today, you will see why you should be concerned over this loss of muscle – and the best way to get it back.
Loss of muscle is interconnected with the mechanisms by which you age. The amount of muscle you have is a key factor in the regulation of other metabolic activities.
Muscle is important in maintaining each of these body functions:
• Supporting bones
• Reducing osteoarthritis
• Aiding in sexual health
• Thyroid hormone production
• Maintaining adrenal production
• Controlling metabolic rate
• Stimulating human growth hormone
• Preventing chronic aches (like back pain)
A Finnish study called, the Evergreen Project, is currently studying the effects of muscle on the aging process. Men and women between the ages of 65 and 94 are participating in the study.
The on-going study is proving wide-ranging benefits that go hand in hand with muscle building. The participants with the most muscle are experiencing better mental function, fewer chronic illnesses, and longer life spans. 1
* The Closest Thing To An Anti-Aging Pill *
The most powerful tool for building muscle is exercise. The right exercise can reverse just about every change of aging. Each of the following symptoms of aging can be reversed through a specific exercise.
Symptom of Aging
Benefit of Exercise
Increased susceptibility to disease Improves immune system function
Loss of muscle and increased body fat Aids in loss of fat and builds muscle
Increased risk of a cardiac event (heart attack, stroke) Lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, lowers cholesterol
Slowing of mental function and alertness Improves reaction times and mental clarity
Insomnia Improves quality of sleep
Depression Relieves stress, improves self-esteem and outlook
Immobility and susceptibility to falls Improves balance and coordination
Resource: Klatz, R. Hormones of Youth 1999
These benefits have been shown to occur regardless of the age of the participants. The Human Nutritional Research Center on Aging at Tufts University studied the effect of muscle building exercise in elders. They were between the ages of 63 and 98. Most required walking aids or were in wheelchairs.
Over 10 weeks, a marked increase in muscle strength was reported. The participants also noticed improved stamina and stability. Many participants were able to walk unaided after the muscle building exercise therapy. 2
* Forget Wear and Tear Exercise*
Of all the benefits of exercise, I have come to believe that maintaining youthful muscle mass is the most generally health enhancing. This is particularly evident in elders. Building muscle keeps you young.
I mentioned in Health Alert 28 that long endurance exercise is a waste of your time when you are trying to lose weight. This applies to anti-aging as well. Long duration exercise causes wear and tear on your body. Your joints become sore. Muscles are fatigued but not given the most effective signal for growth.
Here are some strategies I’ve learned from sports training that have proven effective for building muscle in elders as well.
• Work the large muscle groups first (think legs and back)
• Perform strength training exercises only 3 times a week
• Perform the exercises at high intensity for short duration
• Progressively increase your work load to stimulate muscle growth
• Use slow and smooth movements to prevent injury
Al Sears MD
1 Fozard J, et al., Epidemiologists try many ways to show that physical activity is good for seniors health and longevity: review of special issue of the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity: The Evergreen Project. Exp Aging Res 1999; 25: 175-182
2 Klatz R. Hormones of Youth American Academy of Anti-Aging, Chicago 1999 p. 47-48