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How to slow the loss of muscle tone after 40

By John Haywood on May 5, 2016

If you are over 40 you may not like the tone of this…but your muscle tone will thank you for taking the time to read this!

Elderly man holding walking stick

The fact is that after the age of 40 we naturally lose muscle tissue as a consequence of the normal aging process. Any loss of muscle mass is of consequence, because loss of muscle means loss of strength and mobility. There’s even a name for it.

Welcome to sarcopenia.

In real terms, what that means is, a loss of muscle tissue that equates to about three kilograms per decade after the age of 40. Yes, that is the natural rate of loss you are up against; but only if you do nothing about it.

Really, it’s not that scary. The good news is, you are still able to put on  muscle tissue by exercising the right way – even when you are in your nineties. So, what is the right way? While it is great if you cycle, jog, or swim – and you will note improvements – this is not going to grow your muscles optimally.

Woman swimming in lake

The primary treatment for sarcopenia is exercise specifically focused on resistance or strength training. This form of exercise increases muscle strength and endurance through the use of weights or resistance bands, for example. Resistance training is the champion here, as it positively influences the neuromuscular system, as well as hormone concentrations and protein synthesis rate. There is no doubt that resistance training is beneficial for both the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia.

It’s the energy within the muscle that you lose the most. This is because the power cells in the muscle, called mitochondria, diminish. Think of mitochondria like batteries – are you an Energiser or a lesser quality battery. These are the very structures that are stimulated, both in number and quality, when you do resistance training. So you can turn your lesser quality batteries into Energisers. As you become older you lose strength, confidence, balance and become susceptible to things like falling. If you fall you are more likely to suffer a fracture and that can cause a whole range of detrimental health issues that worsen your frailty.

As with many things, there is a strong benefit in speaking with a professional to ensure you are adopting the approach that is right for your life stage and physical condition. At All About Health and Wellness we are primed to deliver optimal benefits with the proper number, intensity and frequency of resistance exercise.

Simple compound exercises like squats are helpful; pulley weights are the ideal. You can use your own body weight as resistance when doing exercise, for example doing squats. To maximise the benefit, hold a weight close to your chest – this is great for your butt and calves and thigh.

Woman flexing back muscles

I have clients who come in for personal training sessions geared specifically around building energy in their muscles. At  All About Health and Wellness we have a personalised gym and I demonstrate on a one-on-one exercise basis. Visiting your physiotherapist is not just about getting an ache or pain fixed, and this is a case in point. Working on developing strong muscle tone also stands you in good stead should you sustain an injury. That preventative strengthening work will function as a safety valve. Muscle tone strengthening is advantageous from a preventative as well as reactionary perspective – we are not talking solely about injury rehabilitation. It’s a both sides of the coin thing.

While we have been talking about natural changes that occur without an injury being part of the equation, it is important to note that muscle weakening occurs even more so when an injury is involved. If you tear your achilles tendon, for example, you can lose your calf muscle bulk by up to 50 per cent within 10 days to two weeks after that injury, in some cases. So, if you don’t exercise to get that stronger you will be left with a weakness you will have to improve. It’s not going to come back by itself; you have to do some hard work.

While resistance training is very effective at fighting low muscle tone, it’s important to ensure you are taking in adequate amounts of protein required to build muscle. You can enlist the help of the All About Health and Wellness team on this front also.

You can also follow us on Facebook for more updates on living health and improving your road to wellness.

Healthy Regards to all,

Paddy & John,

All About Health and Wellness.

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