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What Happens if You Don’t Stay Active?

by | Dec 27, 2023 | Exercise

Have you ever heard the saying “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it”? That statement is true when it comes to muscle mass.  

Muscle mass decreases approximately 3–8% per decade after the age of 30 and this rate of decline is even higher after the age of 60. (1)

It’s easy to get out of routine and fall off track from your regular exercise schedule as things come up in life, but it’s important to make physical activity a priority. 

Why Being Active is Important

Sedentary behavior, or lack of physical activity, can contribute to muscle atrophy in older adults. Muscle atrophy is a condition in which the muscles shrink and weaken over time due to physical inactivity.  

Sarcopenia, a type of muscle atrophy, is primarily caused by the natural aging process. However, being physically inactive increases your risk. 

Atrophy of the muscles can increase your risk of falls and fractures, leading to disability or lack of independence. Individuals with sarcopenia are nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized than those without sarcopenia. (2) 

This can occur in any age group, but it is more common in older adults as they tend to be less active as they age.

Lower hormone levels, cellular changes, and lessened ability to convert protein to muscle all contribute to sarcopenia.  

Besides muscle atrophy, physical inactivity can lead to many other health problems. These include weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and mental health problems.  

This may sound frightening, but you can slow, reverse, and prevent the development of sarcopenia.

Where Do I Start?

To help prevent muscle atrophy, older adults need to engage in regular physical activity and maintain a healthy diet. This can help to preserve and build muscle mass, strength, and function.  

Physical activity, specifically resistance-based strength training, is recommended for older adults.

Resistance exercise increases growth-promoting hormones and increases the tension on muscle fibers, both of which lead to increased strength.

You can use light weights, resistance bands, and your body weight for resistance-based strength training. Aim to do these exercises two to three days per week.  

It’s also important to include aerobic exercise and flexibility training in your daily life to prevent sarcopenia.  Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. This means you’re doing enough to break a sweat and raise your heart rate.  

With indi, you can access a variety of programs that will get you moving and help you develop a routine and stick to it! 

Resources 

(1)Volpi E, Nazemi R, Fujita S. Muscle tissue changes with aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004 Jul;7(4):405-10. doi: 10.1097/01.mco.0000134362.76653.b2. PMID: 15192443; PMCID: PMC2804956.

(2) Goates, Scott, Kristy Du, Mary Beth Arensberg, Trudy Gaillard, Jack Guralnik, and Suzette L. Pereira. “Economic Impact of Hospitalizations in Us Adults with Sarcopenia.” The Journal of Frailty & Aging 8, no. 2 (2019): 93-99. https://doi.org/10.14283/jfa.2019.10.

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