This article will look specifically at Sarcopenia which is a loss of muscle mass as we age. We all experience it as we get older, reaching peak muscle mass in our 30s and 40s. After that, we slowly start to lose muscle, especially if we do not exercise. However there are things we can do to maintain muscle mass and even sometimes reverse Sarcopenia! It’s all down to keeping active and focusing on maintaining mobility, flexibility and strength.
Sarcopenia Statistics and Quotes:
What is Sarcopenia?
Sarcopenia is a form of muscle loss that happens when we age or become sedentary for extended periods of time. Muscles start to lose mass, function and strength.
We can see in the image above, muscles mass starts to decrease as we age. Muscle cells decline and fibrous, fatty material forms. This is specifically true for those who are inactive and do no exercise. The fatty, fibrous tissues affect strength, flexibility and hinder mobility. This in turn affects independence and quality of life.
In the above diagram we can see how muscle cells change and the loss of muscle mass, causing muscle atrophy (muscle wastage).
Sarcopenia is linked with limited mobility, sedentary lifestyles, frailty, slips, trips, falls and osteoporosis (loss of bone density).
With a good diet and regular exercise, we can treat and prevent Sarcopenia, Osteoporosis, Osteoarthritis and other conditions associated with ageing.
How to treat and prevent Sarcopenia
One of the best ways to preserve muscle mass is through physical activity. It is possible to reduce the severity or Sarcopenia, or even reverse some of the symptoms. For older adults especially, maintaining the mass and fucntion of muscles is important to maintain independence and to enjoy later life.
Activities such as walking, resistance training, gentle aerobics, yoga, and tai-chi are low impact, but have a positive effect on the body.
Ideally we should be aiming for exercises that cover the ‘fabs’ acronym to keep in optimal health:
Flexibility / Aerobic fitness / Balance / Strength
In our Chair Based Yoga and Exercise classes, we work on all of these elements in our hour session. We learn different techniques using resistance equipment and supply resources so that you can practice the knowledge you gain in class at home.
How can Chair Based Yoga and Exercise help fight Sarcopenia?
1. Accessible classes that anyone can attend.
Chair based yoga and exercise classes can be done seated, with chair support or free-standing. This means the classes are open and accessible to anyone. No matter what age or ability, our classes can have a positive effect.
2. Gentle warm up movements help gently work the muscles and joints.
Our classes often start with joint-releasing exercises which gently flex and tone the muscles, as well as working the ligaments and tendons. This really helps improve flexibility and mobility in the body, especially the shoulders, wrists, hands, foot flexors and ankles.
Some example exercises can be seen here:
1. Joint release exercises PDF
2. Chair Based Yoga PDF
3. Resistance training using equipment designed for older adults helps maintain and build muscle strength.
We often recommend the use resistance bands, hand weights, body weight and other forms of equipment to add some resistance to workouts. This is great for improving bone density and reducing effects of osteoporosis, as well as improving muscle mass and muscular flexibility. The exercises are really fun and simple to follow and focus on major muscle groups that help maintain independence.
4. Exercises such as sit-to-stand and squats focus on key muscle groups in the legs, gently building strength.
These exercises are great for improving strength, mobility and flexibility in the legs, as well as gently toning the back and core muscles. It is also really good for balance!
Sit to Stand is one of the best exercise older adults can do.
We would recommend doing 10 a day, or build up to this at your own pace.
This is just one example of the array of exercises we cover in our Chair Based Yoga and Exercise classes.
5. Aerobic Exercises help improve cardio-vascular health, which in turn means the muscles are healthier.
It is recommended by health professionals that we do 30 minutes of cardio-respiratory (or aerobic) exercise a day. This is exercise that elevates our heart rate or breathing. Our aerobics section can be done seated, with chair support or free-standing. This means that anyone can practice aerobics, no matter your age or ability.
We always do the exercises to fun, upbeat tracks from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 80’s and sometimes even the 90’s and 00’s. We include simple steps to get the heart pumping and the body moving.
Aerobics is not only great for the heart, but great for improving muscle strength and mobility too!
If you feel tired exercising for long periods, we recommend breaking things down into 10 minute periods over the day, so you can build up to 30 mins over time.
6. Gentle stretching and working on flexibility helps maintain independence.
Chair based Yoga and Exercise classes always have a strong focus on flexibility. Maintaining and improving flexibility is crucial as we get older and can be improved no matter our age our ability.
We rely on flexibility to help us reach top shelves, tie our shoe laces, getting in and out of the bath and so much more in day to day life that we may not realise.
- Improve range of movement in joints
- Improve posture
- Reduce soreness and tension in the muscles
- Reduces the risk of injuries and slips, trips and falls
- Improves balance and co-ordination
- Increases blood circulation and muscle control
There are many benefits to incorporating stretching into your exercise routines.
7. Being more active naturally leads us to drink more water and eat more healthily.
Diet and hydration are important to maintaining and even improving physical and mental health as we age. We need to ensure we get enough protein so that we can maintain muscle mass.
When we exercise regularly, making healthier choices and drinking the two litres of water recommended to us becomes a lot easier!
8. Learning exercises in class means you can start to develop a home routine to keep you active.
We regularly encourage our students to practice at home and supply free resources so people can develop a home routine to compliment their classes.
When you come to class, you learn to do the exercises with an instructor, so when you practice at home you can practice safely and keep progressing.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the benefits of Chair Based Yoga and Exercise classes!
We run classes across Teesside to help people keep active. We always offer our 1st class on the house! So if you or a loved one would like to join our ever-growing community, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.