The Muscular System
And The Effects of Aging

The major functions of the human muscular system are movement, support and heat production. By around the age of 25 our skeletal muscles have reached their maximum size. They lose about 20% of their mass by age 50 and by age 80 they can shrink by about 50%.

Loss of muscle results in loss of mobility, agility, and flexibility. Simple everyday activities such as getting up from a chair, walking or climbing stairs can become more difficult.

This decline of muscle mass and strength due to age is called sarcopenia. Inactivity can hasten sarcopenia.

What are the effects of aging and inactivity?

The combination of aging and inactivity can be crippling on the muscular system, resulting in such problems as:

  • General weakness
  • Tendency to move at a slower pace
  • Movement becomes stiffer and less flexible
  • Hand grip strength decreases, making it harder to turn door handles, open jars, or hold on to a stair rail
  • Increased chance of losing balance
  • More prone to developing arthritis
  • Increased risk of injuries

Do you want to continue participating actively and independently in the coming decades? Do you want to continue to perform daily tasks and be able to take care of yourself?

Regular exercise
can offset the effects of sarcopenia

Many of the symptoms attributed to aging are due to inactivity and you can slow them down, and possibly reverse them by exercising. The older we get, the more we need to exercise to slow down muscle shrinkage.

Anaerobic exercises are especially beneficial for building muscle. They include resistance training (also called strength training) and weight bearing exercises. They increase mass and reduce body fat. Anaerobic exercises help calories burn at a faster rate which can help take pounds off, improve blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure.

Anaerobic exercise is also excellent for increasing bone density. It strengthens the muscles by forcing them to work against gravity. The muscles pull and tug at the bones which stimulate the cells to grow new bone and increase bone density .

Anaerobic exercise includes:

  • Weight lifting using either hand weights or weight machines,
  • Elastic bands
  • Use your own body weight (push-ups for example)

And don't think it's too late for you to start training. Studies show that even those over 80 can increase their muscular strength when they participate in a regular strength-training workout.

For optimal results, exercise should be combined with healthy eating, lots of water, plenty of rest and stress reduction.

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