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Reversing sacopenia amongst middle-aged workers

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  • Reversing sacopenia amongst middle-aged workers


    We used to think that sarcopenia was irreversible; the traditional view
    of muscle aging was that a decline in physical strength due to began
    after the age of 39 in males and after the age of 49 in females (Adams
    et al, 2006) and continued to get steadily worse during the rest of a
    person's life. [Sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass with
    advancing age, causes physical weakness and reduced activity levels that
    lead to fatness and hypertension.]

    However, it has been known since the nineties that progressive
    resistance exercises can increase muscle strength, reduce body fat and
    decrease blood pressure (Evans, 1996). Subsequent research has shown
    that enormous improvements in fitness are possible; Meredith et al found
    that for 10 "elderly subjects" (65.1 +/- 2.9 yr) endurance training at
    70% of peak oxygen consumption for 12 weeks produced a 128% increase in
    muscle oxidative capacity (1989).

    It is now widely accepted that frail elderly people respond robustly to
    resistance training and that significant increases in muscle area are
    possible with resistance training in combination with adequate energy
    intakes (Singh et al, 1999). This is thought to be due to adaptive
    responses of skeletal muscle to mechanical load that are mediated by
    myogenic regulatory factors (Bamman et al, 2004).

    More recently the spotlight has fallen on the role of nutrition and
    hormone replacement in reversing sarcopenia have received attention
    (Yarasheski, 2003); the factors that contribute to its development
    include the neuropathic, metabolic, hormonal, nutritional and
    immunological status of those affected (Narici et al, 2004).

    Almost all of the attention seems to be paid to the institutionalised
    elderly; I cannot find many papers that comment on the value of
    resistance training for middle aged people (i.e. those who are aged
    between 40 and 60) who are still in the workforce. This is rather odd
    considering all the current publicity about retaining older workers
    (especially "baby boomers") in the workforce (not to mention all the
    current publicity about improving fitness and reducing obesity in the
    population in general!)

    Does anyone have any comments (or references) on the benefits of
    endurance training for these workers in programs designed to maintain
    their fitness (or rehab programs)?

    David McFarlane MAppSc (Ergonomics)
    Ergonomist, WorkCover NSW


    1. M. Adams, N. Bogduk, K. Burton and P. Dolan, (2006), "The
    Biomechanics of Back Pain", second edition, (Churchill, Livingstone,
    Elsevier; New York), fig 8.5, p 99.

    2. W Evans, (1996), "Reversing sarcopenia: how weight training can build
    strength and vitality", Geriatrics, May 1996; 51(5): 46-7, 51-3.

    3. C Meredith, W Frontera, E Fisher, V Hughes, J Herland, J Edwards and
    W Evans, (1989), "Peripheral effects of endurance training in young and
    old subjects", Journal of Applied Physiology, Vol 66, Issue 6, pp

    4. M Singh, W Ding, T Manfredi, G Solares, E O'Neill, K Clements, N
    Ryan, J Kehayias, R Fielding and W Evans, (1999), " Insulin-like growth
    factor I in skeletal muscle after weight-lifting exercise in frail
    elders", Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab 277, 1, July (1 Pt 1): E135-43.

    5. M Bamman, R Ragan, J Kim, J Cross, V Hill, S Tuggle and R Allman,
    (2004), " Myogenic protein expression before and after resistance
    loading in 26- and 64-yr-old men and women", J Appl Physiol 97:

    6. K Yarasheski, (2003), " Exercise, aging, and muscle protein
    metabolism", J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2003 Oct; 58 (10): M918-22.

    7. M Narici, N Reeves, C Morse and C Maganaris, (2004), "Muscular
    adaptations to resistance exercise in the elderly", Journal of
    Musculoskeletal Neuronal Interaction, 4 (2), 161-164.

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