Thanks to advances in medical technology, nutrition and public health, we are living longer. However, living longer does not mean that we are living well.
Sarcopenia is the involuntary loss of muscle mass, strength, and function, and this happens as we age. It is also accompanied by a progressive increase in fat mass and changes in body composition.
Basically, we lose muscle and gain fat. This then increases the incidence of insulin resistance and potentially diabetes.
Sarcopenia is also a fundamental cause of and contributor to disability in older people, which makes sense. Less muscle mass, less strength, less function. This causes issues with balance, gait, and mobility, which increases the risks of falls and vulnerability to injury. Consequently, this can lead to functional dependence and disability.
Holy shit, right?
## Muscle mass decreases from the age of 30
Let me add some more depressing statistics (keep reading because there is good news, I promise!)
Muscle mass decreases approximately 3-8% per decade after the age of 30. Thirty. Three-Zero. 30!
**And actually, we can lose *more* than 8% of our muscle mass between the ages of 40 and 50 years.**
Obviously, this does not get better as we age. In fact, we can lose more than 15% of muscle mass per decade after the age of 75.
## Ageing or sedentary living?
So, does aging *cause* sarcopenia? (Remember, correlation does not imply causation).
Thankfully, this isn't the case.
Because, in fact, many of the conditions attributed to ageing are more accurately related to the effects of sedentary living.
Basically, this means that it's not ageing that causes the drop in muscle mass, strength and function. But in fact, as we age, we do less. We lead more sedentary lifestyles. Which is why we see this decrease. Again, this makes sense, right?
And this is frickin' *awesome*.
Because if it *were* due to ageing, we would feel that we had no control over what happens. But again, this isn't the case.
What this is down to is that we are not moving as much as we once were, and this, my dear reader, is something we *can* control (most of the time).
## It's not too late
![[lean body mass in 70 year old triathlete 1.png]]
<i><small>Image: (Wroblewski et al., 2011)</small></i>
One study has shown that exercise can preserve lean muscle mass as we age.
Read that again – it says we can *preserve* muscle mass.
That's all well and good if we had a decent amount of muscle mass to begin with that we could preserve.
But what if we didn't? What if we ignored all the advice to get our heart rate up and lift weights, and now we are in our 40s? 50s? 60s? Older? What then?
**The truth is that it's never too late. Because exercise training and proper nutrition can have *dramatic* effects on muscle mass and strength no matter our age.**
Aged muscle is still very plastic. It can grow, change and adapt. If we stimulate it, that is.
What this means is that if we exercise, lift weights, and move our bodies, we can increase our muscle mass and strength.
Not only that, but further research suggests that we can achieve muscle strength and functional performance from exercise training regardless of age and baseline functioning.
This means that we can start at any time, and we will see benefits.
Again, it's never too late to start. Ever!
- Volpi, E., Nazemi, R. and Fujita, S. (2004) ‘Muscle tissue changes with aging’, _Current opinion in clinical nutrition and metabolic care_, 7(4), pp. 405–410. Available at: [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804956/](https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2804956/)
- Wroblewski, A.P. _et al._ (2011) ‘Chronic exercise preserves lean muscle mass in masters athletes.’, _Phys Sportsmed_, 39(3), pp. 172–8. Available at: [https://doi.org/10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933](https://doi.org/10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933).