When it comes to prevention, enough cannot be said to highlight the importance of an active lifestyle, not only for prevention of sarcopenia, but for prevention of multitude of diseases. Numerous studies show resistance training in combination with aerobic exercise is effective in maintaining muscle mass and slowing progression of sarcopenia as we age. Research has also revealed nutrition plays an important role.
Exercise, and in particular resistance training (or strength training) is extremely effective for preventing sarcopenia. Resistance training effects the neuromuscular system, protein synthesis, and hormones, which, when not operating normally, work together to cause sarcopenia.
After a program of resistance training is introduced, research shows that motor neuron firing and protein synthesis (both of which are needed in building muscle mass) increase even in the elderly1,2. These changes indicate that it is possible to rebuild muscle strength even at an advanced age.
Aerobic exercise also appears to aid in the fight against sarcopenia. This form of exercise has shown to aid in increasing protein synthesis, an important function in maintaining muscle mass and strength in the aging population3. Read more about exercise.
In order for exercise training to be effective, proper nutrition must be in place. Adequate nutrition intake plays a major role in preventing sarcopenia. Research has shown that older adults may need more protein per kilogram than their younger counterparts to maintain proper levels that reinforce muscle mass4,5.
Protein intake of 1.0-1.2 g/kg of body weight per day is probably optimum for older adults6. This theory, coupled with the fact that older adults tend to take in fewer calories in general, may lead to pronounced protein deficiency as well as deficiency of other important nutrients. Therefore, maintaining adequate protein intake as well as adequate caloric intake is an important facet of the treatment of this disease.
Diets rich in acid producing foods (meat and cereal grains) and low in non-acid producing foods (fruits and vegetables) have been shown to have negative effects on muscle mass6. As mentioned above, protein is important, but a diet high in meat and cereal grains should be balanced with a diet high in fruits and vegetable (non acid-producing foods) in order to be effective in treating sarcopenia. Discover our bone health recipies. Read more about nutrition.
There is some evidence to support that creatine supplements can also aid in muscle development for older adults that are following a resistance training program7,8.
Maintaining appropriate blood levels of vitamin D may also aid in maintaining muscle strength and physical performance6.
1. Roth S.M., R.E. Ferrel, & B.F. Hurley. 2000. “Strength Training for the Prevention and Treatment of Sarcopenia.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging 4(3):143-155
2. Hasten, D.L. et al. 2000. “Resistance Exercise Acutely Increases MHC and Mixed Muscle Protein Synthesis Rates in 78-84 and 23-32 yr olds.” American Journal of Physiology 278:620-626.
3. Sheffield-Moore M, Yeckel CW, Volpi E, et al. (2004) Post-exercise metablolism in older and younger men following moderate aerobic exercise. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 287:E513-E522
4. Campbell WW, Crim MC, Dallal GE, Young VR, Evans WJ. Increased protein requirements in elderly people: data and retrospective reassessments. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Oct;60(4):501-9
5. Campbell WW, Evans WJ. Protein requirements of elderly people. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Feb;50 Suppl 1S180-3
6. Mithal A, Bonjour J-P, Boonen S, Burckhardt P, Degens H, El Hajj Fuleihan G, Josse R, Lips P, Morales Torres J, Rizzoli R, Yoshimura N, Wahl D.A., Cooper C, Dawson-Hughes B(2011) Impact of nutrition on muscle strength and performance in older adults. Osteoporosis International (in press)
7. Brose A, Parise G, Tarnopolsky MA. Creatine supplementation enhances isometric strength and body composition improvements following strength exercise training in older adults. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2003 Jan;58(1):11-9
8. Chrusch MJ, Chilibeck PD, Chad KE, Davison KS, Burke DG. Creatine supplementation combined with resistance training in older men. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Dec;33(12):2111-7