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Why is Muscle Loss a Concern?

Updated: Jul 21, 2020

By: Dr. Kristin Pham, PT, DPT

Muscles are an essential component of locomotion, and helps us produce movement. You can be someone who enjoys daily walk around your neighborhood or casually cruising along the coast. If you are like me who enjoy the weekend hikes where you can walk for miles, climb over boulders after boulders, and chase after the next magnificent view of nature; then we all know how important are our muscle to us. Above are only a few small examples of what our muscles are doing for us; it allows us to live and do what we love. In another word, it is important to our survival and our overall quality of life.

Muscle loss is part of the aging process, so why is it a concern? Muscle loss happens very quickly when a person is bedridden, immobilize, or lack of physical activity. According to WebMD, “physically inactive people can lose as much as 3 to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30.” Furthermore, “muscle loss accelerates after age 40 and continues to accelerate until 35–40% of total muscle mass and 20-40% of strength is lost by age 80.” Muscle loss closely associate with a decrease in strength, quicker fatigue, and ultimately lead to an overall physical weakness that can interfere with basic activities of daily living, limit productivity in the workplace, impair one's mobility and range of motion, predispose individuals to fall-related injuries, and even restrict breathing.

Fun fact: the diaphragm is the primary muscle involved in breathing, besides your ribs and neck muscle. If you notice yourself breathing with your chest more than your belly, you may create more tension or tightness in your neck and shoulder. Remember to work on your diaphragmatic breathing! (see our old post for information on diaphragmatic breathing).

Muscle loss also increases your risk of falls and fractures. A 2015 report from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research found that people with sarcopenia or muscle loss had 2.3 times the risk of having a low-trauma fracture from a fall, such as a broken hip, collarbone, leg, arm, or wrist. Muscle loss is also associated with prolonged ICU and hospital stays, increased morbidity and mortality, thus a decreased quality of life. People with chronic and/or serious health conditions are at a higher risk of being hospitalized because of lost lean body mass, and loss of strength and muscle were among the greatest recovery concerns experienced during and after hospitalization.

Inclusion, we want to enjoy life for as long as we can. Even though, muscle loss is part of our aging process, but there is definitely a way to minimize the debilitating effect of muscle loss. Remember, we are human and we are designed to move because motion is life. Let’s keep on moving!

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