Age-Related Muscle Loss and How to Build Back Muscle Strength

Age-Related Muscle Loss and How to Build Back Muscle Strength
Strength training (such as lifting weights) is a great way to build back lost muscle. | Dr. Ali Ghahary

Age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, is a condition that occurs as a result of the body’s natural aging process. When muscle decreases, so does a person’s strength, and this can not only have a direct impact on one’s balance, but can also affect the ability to be able to perform everyday activities – such as walking, climbing stairs, and lifting objects.

Muscle mass can begin to decline as early as age 40, and may progress more rapidly between the ages of 60 and 60. A person can lose anywhere from 3 to 8 percent of muscle mass every 10 years. While aging is usually the main cause of muscle loss, there are other factors that may contribute to sarcopenia, including living a sedentary lifestyle, poor dietary habits, illness, injury, or other chronic health conditions.

To prevent muscle loss or rebuild lost muscle, Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, says there are different ways in which you can do this – the most important step being exercise. While you may not be able to return to the same level of physical activity that you were once used to prior to developing sarcopenia, you can slowly ease back into it. By partaking in low-impact exercise, you prevent your muscles from working too hard too soon, and therefore reduce the risk of injury. Examples of low-impact exercise include going for short walks or doing stretching. You can find more great examples of workouts to help strengthen your back here. If you feel pain at any time during physical activity then it’s important that you stop and take a break.

Another good idea is to focus on the specific area of the body/the specific muscle you want to rebuild. For example, lifting weights is a great way to increase arm strength, while squats and walking are great ways to increase muscle in the legs. If you do opt for lifting weights, start with something you know you can tolerate rather than choosing weights that are too heavy. For best results you should be performing two to three sets at least twice a week. It’s important that you allow a day or two between workouts to give your muscles adequate time to recover and for that muscle growth to build back up. Once you’ve gotten used to your routine, you can always increase physical activity. You may even benefit from working with a personal trainer, as they are oftentimes able to design a workout routine that is specific to you and your needs.

It’s also essential that you’re eating a well-balanced, healthy diet. Having a diet that consists of a mix of different fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is not only crucial for muscle health, but can also benefit your overall health as well – such as reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Increasing your protein intake can also help rebuild muscle mass. Protein includes things like lean meats, cold-water fish, and eggs. Drinking water can also support muscle growth and flux toxins from the body.

It’s important that you avoid taking supplements that claim to be able to dramatically improve muscle strength, as many of these kinds of products do not help and may actually increase body fat. If you’re looking for alternatives, your best course of action is to speak to your family physician.