Sarcopenia is a loss of muscle mass and strength due to aging and the absence of proper exercise. It is most common in individuals who are physically inactive, but this is not the only contribution to the condition. Fortunately, sarcopenia is partially, if not totally, reversible by implementing a number of exercises into a consistent routine. Ultimately, it is most advantageous to incorporate all of the following training programs into the process, but any and all forms of exercise can be beneficial in recovering a portion of muscle mass and regaining some strength.
1. Resistance Training
Resistance training is one of the most important exercises that patients with sarcopenia can engage in. This type of exercise uses resistance, such as pushing, squeezing, stretching or bending, to gradually overload the muscles until they progressively become stronger. Regular training in this area has been shown to tone muscles and increase bone mass. Resistance training usually makes use of some type of equipment with bands or other elastic forces that allow the muscles a full range of motion. Swimming machines and isotonic exercise equipment may also provide proper types of resistance.
2. Cardiovascular Exercises
Exercising the cardiovascular system improves heart and lung functionality. People with sarcopenia can benefit from cardiovascular exercise, both from the strengthening of the muscles that occurs during the exercise and overall. Cardio can help to improve health and decrease the risk for other problems like heart disease, stroke and insufficient lung capacity. Incorporating cardio exercises into a routine can also be fun, help to break up the monotony of an exercise routine, and keep some consistency with movement and strength building.
3. Flexibility Exercises
Exercises focused on improving flexibility will help make resistance training more of a success by allowing an increase in full range of motion required for muscle improvement. When sarcopenia is involved, muscles tend to be very weak and unable to perform many strenuous movements, and flexibility can be improved with different types of stretching and yoga movements. Choose very basic, beginner moves and slowly progress to holding positions for longer periods of time. Then, continue on to experiment with more advanced techniques.
4. Balance Training
One of the side effects of sarcopenia is a loss of balance and difficulty walking. Agility is important for proper movements and to help avoid fractures, sprains and joint discomfort. Improving balance can be accomplished with many simple exercises. Sarcopenia patients must remember to take it slowly and gradually increase frequency, duration and repetitions as appropriate. It may also be beneficial to attempt these balance exercises directly in front of a table or near a chair. Some simple balance training exercises include:
- Single leg stance – stand on one foot for a short period to time. Rest and repeat with the other foot.
- Leg lifts – lift one leg out to the side approximately 6 inches. Rest and then switch to the other side.
- Knee bends – lift one knee toward your chest, having your foot about 6 inches off the ground. Repeat with the other knee.
- Leg extensions – extend one leg backwards, keeping your knee straight. Repeat and perform the same action with the opposite leg.