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Keeping up Muscle Bulk as You Age

We develop muscle bulk for a very good reason, it''s there to move us about the planet and to enable us to do the things we want and maintain the postures we need. Muscle makes up about 45% of our bodyweight so that indicates its importance as the body does not maintain any tissues which do not have a useful function, it is too expensive in energy. Our muscle bulk develops quickly in our teens and we continue to increase this in our twenties.

However, by about the age of 35 we start losing a small amount of muscle bulk every year as we age and do slightly less. This is usually not of any great concern for some time but by the time we approach our sixties the loss of bulk can become significant and start to get in the way of normal function. The most important muscles for the maintenance of independence are the anti-gravity muscles of the buttocks and the thighs. These muscles push us up from the ground or for sitting, allow us go up and down stairs and climb ladders and enable us to walk normally and mount buses and other obstacles.

If these muscles lose significant bulk the functional activities associated with their strength and endurance will become affected, leading to a gradual loss of ability and in some cases of independence. Consulting a physiotherapist can help will all these problems as they can assess the health of your joints which is a major factor in maintenance of healthy muscle strength. They also will assess your overall muscle strength and pinpoint any weaknesses you may have.

The physiotherapist will give you functional advice to maintain your muscles strength such as taking the stairs rather than the lifts whenever you can, avoiding pushing up with your arms when you rise from a chair and taking up moderately strenuous walking once or twice a week to maintain strength, coordination, balance and joint position sense. If necessary, specific exercises will be designed for your individual problem, focusing on using the muscle in functional situations rather than artificial exercises.

The decline in muscle bulk and the associated strength can be halted and in some cases reversed as there is no bar to increasing muscle strength in older people. Your physiotherapist can advice you on the correct joint movements and strengthening exercises to perform.


Author:Jonathan Blood-Smyth

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