Do We Get Too Old Or Just Weak & Inactive?

Dive into the scientific data and you may begin to ask yourself the same question. The mindset that we adopt related to aging may be more detrimental than the physical impact of aging itself. Sarcopenia is the scientific term that refers to the age-related decline of muscle mass and strength along with it. This phenomenon is well documented and often in the neighborhood of 5% decline in muscle mass per decade after 30 years of age, though dependent on a number of factors.

There are data from a plethora of sources showing that physical activity, particularly resistance exercise, can mitigate these age-related losses. Furthermore, even advanced age adults can still adapt to appropriately designed strength training regimens and demonstrate improvements in muscle mass and power output.

One aspect that is commonly associated with older individuals is the increase in chronic (meaning long-term or lifelong) conditions, commonly including things like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Though age is a primary risk factor for many of these chronic conditions, resistance exercise has shown to be a potent countermeasure in managing and even reversing the negative impact caused by the conditions.

McLeod et. al in 2019 detailed much of the available evidence in this area specific to older adults. The table below shows how resistance training opposes the effect of aging in almost every single category analyzed. Keep in mind that the size and magnitude of these effects are not always similar for each of the parameters listed, but the results and implications are incredible nonetheless.

Watson et. al in 2017 in the LIFTMOR trial showed that high intensity resistance and impact training improves bone density and functional performance in postmenopausal women with low bone mass with a low risk of adverse effects.

Yoon et. al in 2021 showed that increasing physical activity reduces risk and incidence of dementia in over 62,000 participants regardless of age or sex differences.

In general, we as humans are quick to utter the phrase "I'm too old to _____" often referring to a physical activity. In my professional opinion and personal experience, it is this attitude and mindset that reduces overall activity levels and thus results in decreased overall health from a number of parameters (such as those detailed above) which then results in a self-fulfilling prophecy of the inability to do "___" rather than age being the true cause.

Sources:

Mcleod JC, Stokes T, Phillips SM. Resistance Exercise Training as a Primary Countermeasure to Age-Related Chronic Disease. Front Physiol. 2019;10:645. Published 2019 Jun 6. doi:10.3389/fphys.2019.00645

Watson SL, Weeks BK, Weis LJ, Harding AT, Horan SA, Beck BR. High-Intensity Resistance and Impact Training Improves Bone Mineral Density and Physical Function in Postmenopausal Women With Osteopenia and Osteoporosis: The LIFTMOR Randomized Controlled Trial [published correction appears in J Bone Miner Res. 2019 Mar;34(3):572]. J Bone Miner Res. 2018;33(2):211-220. doi:10.1002/jbmr.3284

Yoon M, Yang PS, Jin MN, et al. Association of Physical Activity Level With Risk of Dementia in a Nationwide Cohort in Korea. JAMA Netw Open. 2021;4(12):e2138526. Published 2021 Dec 1. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.38526

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