What is sarcopenia?
The term “sarcopenia” was invented recently by Irwin Rosenberg. In 1989, he first referred to loss of skeletal muscle mass and size as “sarcopenia,” by combining the Greek word for “flesh” (Sarx) with the Greek word for “loss” (penia). At the time, it was thought that the degenerative process being described was led by the loss of lean muscle mass with aging. Today, it is understood that inactivity causes muscles to lose strength through a process of denervation, the loss of nerve supply that signals muscle cells to act. It impacts all of us as we age, unless we proactively prevent it.
As a world-renowned investigative attorney who has tried over 100 major cases in 24 states, Fred Bartlit has neatly arranged the right methods of prevention in his new book, Choosing the Strong Path: Reversing the Downward Spiral of Aging. He and co-author Steven Droullard, along with muscle physiology expert Dr. Marni Boppart, want to share a little known fact with the world: You don’t have to fall apart as you get older. Through carefully calibrated progressive strength training and supporting nutrition, you can stave off sarcopenia, along with dozens of other age-related illnesses.
Without any other disease or injury, the condition leading to sarcopenia can cause us to lose as much as 1 percent of our strength each year after we turn 30. To give you a glimpse of what can happen as we age, look at this progression of decline in muscle—starting as early as age 30—that commonly occurs if we are not proactively working to maintain our strength and fitness:
- Ages 30-45: What is thought of as age-related loss of strength begins around the age of 30. We tend to become more sedentary and lose 3-8 percent of our strength per decade during this time period. Growing weakness makes us feel like doing less, which makes us weaker still.
- Age 50: During our 50s, the rate of strength loss accelerates for most and we may experience some significant health challenges.
- Age 65+: As we retire, we tend to become more sedentary still and as our strength declines further, even the common daily activities of life can become challenging.
Exercise revitalizes brain cells by creating more mitochondria which in turn help fight Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It’s also never too late to start. A Finnish study revealed the favorable effects of exercise for cognitive decline even at ages 67-77.
It’s important that you don’t think about whether or not to exercise. It’s like this: Will I go to the gym today? Well, let’s see. How do I feel? Do I really need to? I did great yesterday. I am tired. I have an important meeting. Face it, you’ll talk yourself out of going. That’s what the conscious mind loves to do. It is important that instead you begin with the intention of building a habit and not of engaging in any further decision-making. It’s important that you don’t think about it, because every time you open it up to a process of decision-making consciously, you will falter, because conscious decision-making is made to be flexible.
As long as we’re dealing with weak muscles, an intelligently pursued exercise program that starts from the point of “let’s work to strengthen it” can make huge changes. What is your plan of action when you’re feeling pain? Try the following:
- Gather information
- Seek professional advice from a physical therapist or a qualified exercise physiologist.
- Be willing to listen and work on what ails you.
- Address the issues: Rehab the back; work on the shoulder. Reject the pain and weakness you begin with as an outcome, and be ready to transform the situation. You can grow strong again and resume physical activity once you have tackled your ailment.
- Over the long term, you need to make your body strong enough to support your entire system.
The truth is, within 2 or 3 months, most issues will improve significantly enough that you will become confident that it’s possible to change the entire trajectory of decline into one of improvement.
In other words, you need to get on and stay on the Strong Path.