Rogers Jr.: Slow down decreasing muscle mass by moving moreWritten by Guest Author | | GuestAuthor@toledofreepress.com
George Burns — who lived to be 100 years old — used to say, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!”
It’s true that some individuals are blessed with good genes. For the rest of us who might be concerned with quality of life as we age, exercise is one of the keys.
Muscle mass decreases as we age. Beginning in the fourth decade of life, adults lose 3-5 percent of muscle mass per decade, and the decline increases to 1-2 percent each year after age 50. Muscle keeps us strong; it burns calories and helps us maintain our weight, and it is also an essential contributor to our balance and bone strength.
The good news is that muscle mass can increase at any age in response to exercise. In an important study of strength training and older adults conducted with 100 male and female residents of a nursing home in Boston (average age 87), subjects lifted weights with their legs three times a week for 10 weeks. At the end of the study, there was an increase in thigh mass of 2.7 percent, walking speed increased 12 percent, and leg strength increased 113 percent. In a similar study of adults 65-79 years old, subjects who lifted weights three times a week for three months increased their walking endurance by 38 percent (from 25 minutes to 34 minutes) without appreciable increases in mass.
Additionally, the literature is voluminous with evidence defining geriatric improvements in cardiovascular, musculoskeletal and neurological health. The inclusion of carefully constructed exercise regimens may slow down the osteoporotic process. Additional studies show a reduction in hip fractures in women who undertake regular exercise regimens. The factors leading to this reduction are improved strength, proprioception and maintaining of greater bone density.
The rate of hip fractures increases dramatically within the geriatric population. Therapeutic exercise may reduce this risk. The evidence supports improved strength and endurance. Additionally, all therapeutic exercise regimens must include activities that sharpen proprioceptive skills, as most hip fractures are fall-related. Your fall risk can be estimated by your physical therapists.
While exercise cannot vaccinate against or eradicate dementia, evidence suggests therapeutic exercise can slow the rate of or reduce the onset of dementia while promoting mental health improvements.
Set an appointment with your physician to determine your capabilities to proceed with an exercise regimen. The physician may in turn refer you to physical therapy for balance assessment. The physical therapist will prescribe specific therapeutic exercise, which is capable of improving functional strength, endurance, balance and range of motion. The physician and physical therapist may also refer you to an exercise physiologist, who will consider your current physical status and issue a specific exercise prescription.
All of these services are available through Mercy. To find a physician, call (419) 251-4000.
Burton Rogers Jr. is regional administrative director for Mercy Sports Medicine.