by Melissa Jarufe, LMT
As we get older, our muscles naturally lose their elasticity and ability to regenerate. As a result, we begin to experience muscle weakness, decreased circulation, aches, fatigue, and an ever-increasing desire to become sedentary. A tempting pastime if you are tired and hurting.
So why do we lose muscle as we age? One of the reasons is that as we age, the hormone Insulin, which is responsible for preventing muscle breakdown between meals, ceases to be as effective as when we are younger. Another reason is that as we age our circulatory systems also become less efficient and thus less nutrients are being delivered to the muscles.
A recent study from the University of Nottingham looked at how aging muscle looses its ability to maintain and regenerate muscle tissue. They used two groups of men and women; one averaging age 25 and the other 60. They were each given enough insulin to match their level of insulin after eating breakfast (cereal or a croissant). Then by tagging one of the amino acids (muscle building blocks) in the leg muscle and measuring (via blood analysis) how much amino acids were being delivered by blood to the leg and how much were leaving the leg due to muscle breakdown, it was determined that, overnight, the younger group was able to use the insulin more efficiently and less muscle breakdown occurred.
A follow up study to this focused on the effects of exercise on blood flow in aging muscle tissue. The results showed that exercising just three times a week improved blood flow. Increased blood flow would then increase nutrient delivery which would help in the prevention of muscle breakdown in aging tissues.
How do we reduce muscle loss as we age?
1. Keep moving. A sedentary lifestyle will only make muscles and joints less mobile and more prone to injury. Talk to your doctor about what types of exercise are right for you. Consider yoga which focuses on balance, strength, and breath.
NOTE: Good breathing encourages good circulation and increases our energy level by delivering fresh oxygen and other nutrients to our tissues.
2. Experiment with your diet. Food has a profound effect on our over health and well being.
3. Establish a regular massage routine. As we get older our tissue are slower to rebuild. Massage is very helpful in assisting your body in rebuilding as well as helping it to eliminate toxins that accumulate during exercise. Massage also helps us relax and sleep better by reducing everyday aches and pains.