Exercises Key to Preventing Muscle Loss

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Australian researchers are advising people to start early with a personalised regimen of exercises—rather than medication—to prevent muscle loss in old age.

Geriatrician Jesse Zanker from the University of Melbourne says the age-related loss of strength and mobility in which muscles begin losing their youthful bulk starting from about the age of 30, is largely preventable.

“Despite progress in medical research and the particular focus of drug companies targeting chronic diseases of older age, a prescription of exercise remains the gold standard,” Zanker said.

While walking is the most common form of exercise and is good for our physical, emotional and social health, he said walking on its own doesn’t reduce our risk of falls or reverse muscle loss.

“The key is progressive resistance training, which involves a gradual, repeated, and targeted increase in weight or “resistance” over time,” Zanker said.

doing squats
Squats are a strength training exercise to could incorporate into a fitness routine to help prevent injury, increase mobility, and increase athleticism. (antoniodiaz/Shutterstock)

The tailored training needs to take into account cultural, ethnic, and physical ability differences for muscle strength, physical performance, and body composition.

For too long people have believed losing muscle and strength is an inevitable part of ageing, Zanker said.

“With targeted action, however, loss of muscle and its negative outcomes can be delayed, prevented, and even reversed,” he said.

“There are many reasons that people can lose muscle, such as inactivity and hospitalisation, which exacerbates losses seen with aging,” co-researcher Victoria University’s Prof. Alan Hayes from the Institute for Health and Sport said.

“Muscles can respond at any age, but waiting until there are difficulties with simple activities of daily living is too late.”

Strength Training in Older Adults Associated with Lower Risk of Death

A 15-year survey of 30,000 people by the Penn State College of Medicine and Columbia University revealed that strength training in older adults is beneficial beyond improving muscle strength and physical function.

The researchers found that those who strength trained at least twice a week had 46 percent lower odds of death than those who did not.

They also had 41 percent lower risk of cardiac death and 19 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.

Further, older adults who met strength-training guidelines were more likely to have normal body weight, engage in aerobic exercise, and abstain from alcohol and tobacco.

Results were adjusted for demographic variables, health behaviours, and health conditions.

The Australian and New Zealand Society for Sarcopenia and Frailty Research has published new guidelines including 17 recommendations to prevent, screen, diagnose, and manage age-related muscle loss in Nov. 2022.

Jessie Zhang


Jessie Zhang is a reporter based in Sydney covering Australian news, focusing on health and environment. Contact her at jessie.zhang@epochtimes.com.au.

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