Aging is usually linked with a gradual loss of muscle strength and muscle mass, causing fragility, falls, functional decline, and a general feeling of weakness and loss of function for life’s tasks and enjoyments. A recent study evaluated whether masters competition athletes who engage in high levels of regular exercise also lose muscle mass and strength as they get older. The question for this study was whether the decline in muscle mass is inevitable with age, or was it a consequence of a sedentary less active lifestyle? Perhaps muscles waste away if they are not used in old age?
Many previous research studies had showed that most people over 40 years of age, generally lose about 8% or more of their muscle mass every 10 years. The rate of muscle loss increases to about 15% after the age of 70 years. Losing muscle mass generally leads to a decline in strength, accidents, mobility and eventually loss of independence.
Loss of Calcium from bones also occurs with age and exercise helps to delay this loss as well.
The combined effect of weakened muscles and bones is an increased rate of falls and bone breakages.
There is growing evidence that master athletes, many of whom train four to five times every week, may not show the same loss of total lean muscle mass and loss of strength compared to those who live a more sedentary lifestyle.
Master athletes and those who work out at the gym continue to maintain a good quality of life and their functional capacity throughout their lives as the get older.
It is an assumption that growing old leads to an inevitable decline from vitality and activity to frailty and a sedentary lifestyle.
This includes feeling generally weak, and unsteady, lacking self-confidence, loss of function and often the loss of independence.
These losses may be more related to lifestyle choices, including lack of exercises, sedentary living, depression and poor nutrition, than the loss of muscle and bone through the aging processes.
Studying master athletes may show whether muscle decline is inevitable as people get older, or is it a simple consequence of people becoming less active as they get older.
Perhaps regular exercise may help to preserve both muscle mass and strength. If you don’t use it you lose it!