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July 2013

Why Loss of Muscle Impacts Your Health

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Over the last several years I have periodically discussed  the loss of muscle that normally occurs with age. In fact, recent research says that most individuals between the ages of 30 and 65 lose about 30% of their muscle mass.

The health implication with the loss of muscle is more critical today than in the past because most Americans are less physically active (which contributes to even more muscle mass loss) and are more obese. This combination has a significant impact on a number of health risk factors including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and joint replacement. In addition, as the body loses muscle, it loses its functionality-the ability to climb stairs, carry groceries, stand up from a seated position and other common daily activities.

I don’t know of anyone who wants disease or loss of muscle functionality. The good news is that muscle loss does not have to occur. Strengthening exercises can easily slow the loss of muscle and help individuals maintain a healthy muscle mass. This is extremely important for individuals age 55 and older.

In a recent article that appeared in ACSM’s Health and Fitness Journal in March/April 2013 and written by W. Wescott and R. LaRosa Loud, the authors focused on the consumption of protein and carbohydrate supplements along with strength training exercises to not only maintain muscle mass but also to build muscle for older individuals.

Muscle is made to work and if you do work it, it will remain strong and even increase in strength and functionality. However, if you put a cast on your arm and take it off six weeks later, the arm is much smaller due to loss of muscle mass caused by atrophy. Muscle that is not used will shrink. It does not go away but is smaller, less functional and has less strength. Make sure you maintain an active lifestyle. The benefits are long lasting and will slow down the loss of muscle as you age.