Sarcopenia and loss of strength

with advice from Daniel Butler, CEP

Sarcopenia and loss of strength

Sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass, is a part of what has been called “the slippery slope of aging.”

As people age, they often start to experience sarcopenia, as well as osteopenia and osteoporosis. Having weaker muscles and bones, plus the arthritis caused by years of wear and tear, can make movement more difficult and painful. The pain leads to less activity, which contributes to weaker bones and muscles, making it even more difficult to move. And so on.

Doctors and scientists are still not quite sure what causes sarcopenia, but they have linked a number of factors to its development, according to the Mayo Clinic: age-associated hormone changes, physical inactivity, inflammation, and diseases like cancer and diabetes. Because inactivity can lead to sarcopenia, doctors encourage older adults to exercise more to build muscle mass.

Exercise increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss.Daniel Butler, a personal trainer and clinical exercise specialist who works at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center (a Physiquality network member in Tennessee), is an expert in helping people avoid age-related physical problems. He points out that exercise not only builds body mass, but it also releases some of the hormones that start to dwindle as we age, like testosterone and growth hormones.

In addition, it can help older adults lose weight, reducing the pain associated with arthritis; having more weight on your frame can exponentially increase the pressure on your joints. So activity increases hormone levels, builds muscle mass, and contributes to weight loss. Win, win, win!

If you haven’t been very active and don’t know where to begin, says Daniel, go for a walk. Walking doesn’t take any special skills, and in many areas of the country can be done outside year-round. If it’s too cold outside right now, he adds, there are several places to walk indoors, like shopping malls, commercial gyms and community centers.

Daniel notes that water exercise is a great alternative. Just like walking, it can be done indoors or outside, and the resistance provided by the water is enough to strengthen bones and muscles.

If you’re hesitant about trying a new activity on your own, talk to your physical therapist — PTs can create a walking or exercise program to build muscle mass at a rate that you are comfortable with. Use our locator to find a Physiquality therapist in your neighborhood.

It's important for seniors to avoid frailty.The key to aging well is avoiding frailty, the last step in the “slippery slope.” Daniel recommends keeping an eye on your bone density through DEXA scans, and then taking steps, such as proper diet and exercise, to maintain strong and healthy bones. He also notes that regular balance screenings can detect loss of equilibrium. If loss of balance is present, there are exercise and physical therapy protocols that can help restore balance.

The last point Daniel makes is that it’s important for seniors to be social. Meeting up with friends outside the house, whether you’re going for a walk or seeing a movie together, gets you off the couch and moving — and the more you move, the better you’ll feel.

 

Daniel Butler, CEP Daniel Butler, CEP, has been a personal trainer for more than 10 years at the Take Charge Fitness Program, a wellness facility run by Clinton Physical Therapy Center, a Physiquality network member in Clinton, Tennessee. A former Marine, Daniel holds certifications from the American College of Sports Medicine as a clinical exercise specialist and the Arthritis Foundation as an aquatic instructor, and he completed his B.S. in health administration in 2012.

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How to do the perfect squat

The perfect squat is different for every body:

  • A power lifter may utilize a low bar position to maximize hip torque and minimize anterior knee displacement, both of which will result in a slightly heavier one-repetition maximum (1RM).
  • A collegiate athlete may utilize a front squat to minimize forward torso lean, which will maximize range of motion and anterior core activation.
  • A pre-adolescent trainee may utilize a goblet squat to encourage proper squat form, as well as those benefits associated with a front squat, but without the significant spinal loading.

Regardless of which squat you choose, there are a few technique guidelines and cues that should be followed to ensure safety and maximize results. Keep in mind that while the following guidelines are for those working with weights, the points about engaging muscles and proper form remain the same for anyone doing squats with or without weights. And, for best results, consult with your fitness professional or physical therapist about exercise techniques that are right for your fitness level.

 

  • Engage your core.

 

Before un-racking the bar, brace your abs as if somebody were going to punch you in the stomach. This core activation will help you avoid losing the neutral spine alignment which is so paramount to a perfect squat.

 

  • Use your latissimus muscles (in the upper/middle back, below the shoulders) to stabilize your body.

 

The lats are an incredibly powerful muscle group which insert all along the spine. Once the bar has been un-racked, fully engage them to add even more stabilization. Think about pulling the bar down as you would in an old-school, behind-the-neck lat pulldown.

Perfect squat cropped

 

  • Balance your weight over your heels.

 

To minimize stress to the knee and maximize posterior chain recruitment, think about sitting back on your heels. Your heels should be glued to the floor, and you should be able to slightly wiggle your toes at the bottom position of a squat. Obviously, if you take this cue too far to the extreme, you risk falling backwards, so perfecting technique with bodyweight or a light external load is highly recommended.

 

  • Downward movement should be slow and controlled.

 

Always lower down with control. Although the squat is an excellent choice for developing power, the eccentric portion of the lift should be done slowly to minimize injury.

 

  • Pay attention to upper leg alignment.

 

Squat - Excel PT Ideally, the bottom position of the squat will be slightly below parallel or lower. However, some individuals may find that flexibility issues in the hamstrings and hip flexors and/or mobility issues in the hip and ankle may limit their abilities to reach that depth safely. If this is the case, dedicate several weeks to improving these limitations before adding any significant weight to the bar.

 

  • Push with a quick burst of energy for your upward movement.

 

Once proper depth has been achieved, explosively push away from the floor. This portion of the exercise improves your power and strength, so maximizing bar speed is the primary objective. The more explosive the lift, the greater the use of type II muscle fibers in your legs, and the greater the potential for improvements in muscle size.

 

  • Use that booty.

 

Squeeze your glutes as you complete the lift. This encourages full hip extension.
Squats are an excellent tool for improving lower body strength and power. Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a figure competitor or a professional athlete, learn how to perform the Perfect Squat and enjoy the results!

Jeff Rothstein, MS, CSCS, CES Jeff Rothstein, MS, CSCS, CES, is an exercise physiologist and the Director of Strength and Conditioning at the PT Center for Sports Medicine, a Physiquality network physical therapy clinic in Akron, Ohio. A certified strength and conditioning specialist, he is particularly interested in sport-specific strength and conditioning and ACL injury screening and prevention.

 

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Fitting exercise into your daily routine

We all know the health benefits of exercise: It makes you feel better. It helps you live longer. It reduces your risk of diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even the common cold. It stimulates your brain. It maintains your weight and strengthens your heart, lowers blood pressure and improves muscle tone. It lifts your mood, leading some doctors to even prescribe it for depression.

But many people are daunted by the goal set by the American Heart Association of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. So how can you fit in enough exercise to reach that goal?

Kim Gladfelter, a physical therapist and owner of PhysioFit Physical Therapy (a Physiquality network clinic in California), says, “Exercising three to five times a week is enough to make a positive difference in your health.” If it’s difficult to begin an exercise program, she notes, start with shorter amounts of activity. “Even 10 to 15 minutes a day can improve your mood and reduce depression,” she points out. Read More

How good is your form at the gym?

As many of us are increasing our workouts to get in shape for spring break and impending summer (and skimpier clothes), you might be thinking about upping your weight as well as your reps. Be careful, though — a recent study showed that more people have been coming home from weight training with injuries instead of bigger muscles. Our experts list some common mistakes made in the weight room, as well as ways to correct them and reduce your chance of injury.  Read more.

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