The Time to Keep Your Muscle Mass is Now

We lose muscles as we age, my friends – it’s just a sad fact of life. While you may just think you have to accept that, it’s not true and you need to aim for the opposite as much as possible! You will need stronger muscles to stay balanced and mobile–keys to living independently–and, as it turns out, to increase your survival odds if you’re sick or stuck in the hospital.

Sarcopenia, which is muscle mass loss to due age, actually starts in your 30s. If you don’t do anything to stop this age-related process, you can expect to lose about 15 percent of your muscle mass overall by the time you are 80, according to a review published in the Journal of Gerontology (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7493218/).

One way to measure your functional capacity is your gait, or walking speed. This is also a predictor of life expectancy. If you can walk about 5.2 feet each second when you’re 65, your life expectancy might be another 32 years, according to various research. But if your speed is at or under the sarcopenia cutoff of 2.6 feet per second, your life expectancy falls to just 15 years more. At this speed, you would not be able to completely cross a standard pedestrian crosswalk before the traffic light changed to red.

Muscle mass is rapidly lost in bed rest situations, such as hospitalization. An Extreme Physiology & Medicine review notes that over just the first two weeks of being stuck in bed, you can lose 2.5 percent of your muscles mass (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4600281/). By the time you hit the 23rd day in bed, up to 10 percent of quadriceps muscle mass may vanish.

To combat this age-related muscle mass, there are a few things you cam do. Try high-intensity interval training once each week to boost your muscle mass. Doing muscle endurance training two or three time each week can improve your lactic acid tolerance, protecting your muscles from its ability to break them down.

If you’re not a big fan of weight training or just don’t have the access to equipment right now, there are other steps you can take. Boost your stamina by taking a 90-minute to three-hour paddle session, bike ride or walk. Anything you can do during which your body is engaged in a repetitive motion for a long period of time can help keep your muscle mass intact.