Growing old doesn’t have to mean loss of independence. But there are a few things you need to watch out for.
High on my list are your muscles. Muscle power means youth, vitality and independence.
Unless you do something about it, muscle loss (sarcopenia) is like a progressive disease. Your body simply “wastes away” over the years. Skeletal muscle mass drops between 35% to 40% by the time you reach 80.1 That’s about three pounds every decade.
You won’t see any TV commercials telling you to take a drug for muscle loss. There aren’t any. But you will see ads for osteoporosis drugs. Ironically, it’s the loss of muscle that causes your bones to weaken in the first place.
In a young adult, the weight and stress of activities tell your bones they need to stay strong. If you lose muscle power and become less mobile, bones become light and brittle.
The strongest muscles in your body are the quad muscles in your legs. They’re so important that studies show quad strength is inversely related to all-cause mortality.2
And, muscles do a whole lot more than help you move around and lift things. They are responsible for a host of vital bodily functions.
Check out this chart:
The good news is that reversing this problem is easier than you might think.
You can build muscle mass, increase bone density, and improve your balance with physical challenges that take very little time and are fun and challenging.
Your body will be naturally strong and resilient. You’ll feel energized, motivated and ready to take on any challenge. Your muscles will be their intended size – no bigger or smaller. Your breath will be deep and focused. And you’ll stay youthful and mobile for life.
The most powerful tool for building muscle is the right kind of exertion. It can reverse just about every negative change of aging, including sarcopenia.
In one study, researchers looked at elderly women doing tai-chi and walking. After lightly working out three times a week for three months, they experienced an increase in strength in their upper leg musculature.3
That seems ok … until you look at this study.
It examined the effects of exercise similar to what I recommend in my P.A.C.E. program. Men whose average age was 64 shortened the time spent exerting themselves. But they increased the intensity of the challenge.
They worked three times per week on their lower extremities. And their quad strength increased as much as 226%.4
This isn’t just true for men, and it doesn’t matter how old you are. In one study, women over the age of 80 who did shorter but more intense exercise were able to increase their lower body muscle mass 26% by and their leg muscle power by 31%.5 Imagine what they would have been able to do with P.A.C.E!
All you have to do is just keep up with the small changes, too. Another study looked at a group of people from 60 to 74 years old. When they stopped exerting themselves, it only took a few weeks for their muscle strength to drop back down like a stone.6
Rebuild Your Quad Strength in Minutes a Day, Three Times a Week
I usually recommend body weight exertion with P.A.C.E. because these movements resemble the challenges you face in your everyday environment.
You’re also avoiding the kinds of stress injuries that conventional training techniques can cause. They unnaturally isolate a single muscle group and working it to death – something your body just wasn’t designed for.
Here’s something you can do right now to increase the strength in your most powerful muscles, the quads. They’re called alternating lunges.
To make it truly P.A.C.E, remember to increase the challenge slightly with each set. I call that “progressivity.” Also, to get your body to give you stronger quads and more bone strength even faster, you’ll want to use “acceleration.” That means shorten your recovery time between sets, or get up to your desired intensity faster.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD
1. Janssen et al. “Low relative skeletal muscle mass (sarcopenia) in older persons is associated with functional impairment and physical disability.” Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2002. 50(5):889-96. 2. Swallow, Elisabeth B., et al, “Quadriceps strength predicts mortality in patients with moderate to severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Thorax 2007;62:115-120 3. Song Q, Zhang Q, Xu R, Ma M, Zhao X, Shen G, Guo Y, Wang Y1. “Effect of Tai-chi exercise on lower limb muscle strength, bone mineral density and balance function of elderly women.” Int J Clin Exp Med. 2014;7(6):1569-76. 4. Frontera WR et al. “Strength conditioning in older men: skeletal muscle hypertrophy and improved function.” Journal of Applied Physiology. 1992. 64: 1038-44. 5. Raue U, Slivka D, Minchev K, Trappe S. “Improvements in whole muscle and myocellular function are limited with high-intensity resistance training in octogenarian women.” J Appl Physiol. 2009;106(5):1611-7. 6. Tokmakidis S, Kalapotharakos V, Smilios I, Parlavantzas A. “Effects of detraining on muscle strength and mass after high or moderate intensity of resistance training in older adults.” Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2009;29(4):316-9.