Doctors: When It Comes To Muscles, Use It Or Lose It

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We know working out is smart. Aerobic exercise is good for heart and lung function and it also boosts our mental sharpness and our emotional state, but there is another reason to get physical. A growing body of evidence shows that muscles allowed to shrink too far may reach a point of no return; a condition called sarcopenia.

Sports medicine specialist, Dr. Sarah Lehnert at Fairview Sports & Orthopedic Care in Burnsville, Minn. said our society is suffering because of our inactivity.

“Over the age of 65, 20 percent of our population has sarcopenia enough that it affects daily living function,” said Lehnert.

Lehnert said the ability to do normal activities is jeopardized.

“Just everyday things we take for granted; going up and down the stairs, getting out of a chair, lifting. If you have sarcopenia, those become difficult,” she said.

Gradually vanishing muscle fibers leave less and less tissue to rebuild. It is a problem that begins long before our golden years. From the age of 30 onward we lose 1 percent to 4 percent of our muscle mass every year. It really is use it or lose it.

If one wants the full gym experience, that’s fine, said Lehnert, but simple elastic exercise bands are enough to wake up muscle fibers and add mass. She also suggests stair step exercises for leg muscles for those whose joints are healthy enough.

The idea is to gain muscle now, rather than lose quality of life later.

Lehnert added that anyone trying to build muscle mass should make sure to eat nutritiously and include protein in every meal. She also reminded those with an underlying health condition to talk to their doctor before starting an exercise program.

  • Andrew Dudley

    Great article, just one point i would like to make is while it is never to late to start lifting weights and increasing strength the latest research is suggesting that it gets harder to add muscle ‘mass’ the older we get.

    That said since strength is the key factor in maintaining our physical freedom and independence, the earlier we start to include weight training as part of our exercise routine the better.


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