As we journey through life, our bodies undergo various changes, including the natural aging process. One of the most significant changes we experience is the gradual loss of muscle mass and strength, known as sarcopenia. However, the tale of muscle loss and aging doesn't have to be one of inevitability. In this blog, we will explore the importance of muscle activation in retaining muscle mass, preventing loss, and promoting anti-aging to stave off disability and dysfunction as we age.
The Impact of Aging on Muscle
Aging brings about a decline in muscle mass and strength, often due to a combination of factors, including hormonal changes, decreased physical activity, and reduced protein synthesis. This decline can lead to various health challenges, including decreased mobility, increased risk of falls, and compromised quality of life.
"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."
That's 4 to 6 pounds of muscle per decade! A decrease in muscle mass is also accompanied by a progressive increase in fat mass and consequently changes in body composition, and is associated with an increased incidence of insulin resistance in the elderly.
Furthermore, bone density decreases, joint stiffness increases, and there is a small reduction in the curve of our spine (kyphosis) that can lead to trigger points, muscle pain, and imbalances. All these changes have probable implications for several conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
I think we can we all agree that these things are bad and that it pre-maturely shortens our lives and even worse, decreases how functional our life is.
The Key to Retaining Muscle: Physical Therapy
The principle of "use it or lose it" holds true for our muscles. Regular muscle activation through physical activity sends signals to our body that muscle tissue is needed. This, in turn, stimulates protein synthesis, which is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. Regardless of age, engaging in regular physical activity that targets different muscle groups can help retain muscle mass and strength.
While we can't stop the aging process entirely, we can slow it down and mitigate its impact to us by focusing on 3 key factors:
Mitochondrial dysfunction plays a role in sarcopenia and our overall health. Some of the treatments for maintaining mitochondrial health include hormone therapy, exercise, red-light therapy and IV therapy. In this blog, we will be focusing on muscle activation and what we can do to keep our function!
But what type of Physical Therapy exercises and what muscles should we use to specifically target the aging process to prevent disease and improve our over all function?
We have Identified 3 areas of "Longevity Muscles" for Anti-Aging
The biggest deficiencies and reasons why people are in pain and eventually lead to dysfunction are due to lack of muscle activation and strength in these 3 areas. These areas if consistently worked on can lead to prevention of diseases, injury, and overall longer more fruitful lifespan. We have found these muscles to be the root cause of several injuries and dysfunction in our patients throughout the years.
Well, What are they!?
Our back muscles! They help support posture, align our spine, support our body and much more! The Posterior shoulder is very important for balance and strength that include our postural muscles, deltoids, lats, and more! Deadlifting is one of the most functional movement patterns you can do, if performed safely and correctly.
Gluteus Medius: Supports our entire pelvic region and is crucial for fall prevention. Gluteus Max: Power house of the body, responsible for power output during activities. Maintaining their strength is crucial in order to do daily activities such as lifting boxes, sitting and standing, getting up from a chair, getting in/out of car. All situations that if this system fails can lead to falls, fractures, and and even hospitalizations!
Rotator Cuff/Scapular Muscles
The shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body. At higher ages, the potential for muscle imbalance can lead to tears and dysfunction.
30-50% of people over the age of 60 likely have some degree of rotator cuff tearing, often asymptomatic. Fatty degeneration of gluteus medius muscle impacts stability of the pelvis including the hip joint. Evaluating fatty streaks in the gluteus minimus muscle could help give early indication to those who have a higher risk of falling.
What Exercises should You Be Doing?
These are some of the best exercise you can do to target the 3 areas we mentioned earlier:
Hip Hinging: Good Mornings
Single Leg RDLs
While these are excellent exercises, what is more important is how you do them. Feeling the muscle contract in the right areas will serve you better with the right intentions instead of aimlessly performing the movement. Consult a Physical Therapist before starting any new exercise routine, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions, consult a medical professional or fitness expert to ensure safety. Some of these exercises may be to advanced. Work your way up to them, being able to do these movement will significantly improve your function and life and ultimately combat the aging process.
Muscle activation is the key to defying the passage of time, enabling us to retain muscle mass, prevent loss, and enjoy a vibrant and active life. By understanding the significance of engaging our muscles through various forms of exercise, we can embark on a journey of anti-aging that fosters independence, prevents disability, and promotes overall well-being. Remember, age is just a number, but the strength and vitality of your muscles can tell a timeless story of resilience and wellness.
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