Being Strong and Mobile through Your Golden Years

While I worked at a hospital in the Midwest {USA), it wasn't too often that I had to treat a farmer. However, whenever this occurred, I noticed that most farmers were generally in their mid-70s and presented with a manageable complaint- typically an injury or joint pain. Indeed, farmers normally have strong physiques, consisting of normal weight, good metabolism (no diabetes, rarely hypertension, strong immunity)and boundless energy levels. Therefore, one day I asked a farmer... what’s the secret to his robust health and energy? He replied, "Keep moving!"

This is in line with new medical research which has discovered that strong active muscles have an enormous effect on our overall health and longevity.

Groundbreaking Discovery

In medical school, doctors were taught that the role of muscles was for locomotion, movement and activity. Obviously true. However, new groundbreaking research has discovered that active-working muscles release chemical signals called Myokines. These myokines travel to other organs such as: the heart, brain, bones, joints, digestive tract, immune system and more - where they stimulate growth, repair and renewal. Indeed, research has uncovered over a thousand different myokines and we are only just learning about the powerful impact that these myokines have on our entire body and health system.

Unfortunately, many doctors consider that as we age, the loss of strength, muscle mass, and frailty - collectively known as Sarcopenia, is a normal part of ageing, for which there is no treatment. If left unchecked, this gradual muscle loss and corresponding decline in myokine production will lead to frailty and is often linked to lower quality of life and higher risks of various health issues.


Sarcopenia begins in our early 30s, when we begin to lose about 1-2% of muscle mass per year depending on how i active we are, and this process gathers speed with age especially from mid-50s onward. Although 1-2% per year may be perceived as only a "small" loss, the corresponding reduction in muscle myokine levels has profound consequences. Moreover, it has been shown that the development of sarcopenia precedes many disease processes including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and cognitive impairment, leading some researchers to suggest that sarcopenia and reduced myokines may play a role in some medical problems. In fact the Japanese orthopaedic association has determined that mobility and strength are such crucial keys to longevity and health, that they have created a national campaign promoting specific exercises to be performed daily - to counteract sarcopenia and frailty and thereby improve mobility, strength and overall health. This awareness in Japan contributes to longer health span in Japanese seniors.

This problem will be particularly challenging for the fast ageing Singapore society. By 2050, nearly half (47%) of all Singaporeans will be over the age of 65. It is therefore increasingly important to minimise the future social costs of sarcopenia.

Causes of Sarcopenia/ Frailty Include: • Inadequate physical activity -sedentary lifestyles • Poor diet - Insufficient protein intake, excess carbohydrates • Low levels of antioxidants & Vitamin D • Smoking - high oxidative stress • Chronic medical problems including: diabetes, obesity, hormones, medications

How to Beat Sarcopenia The three major strategies to conquer sarcopenia involve: physical activity, protein intake and antioxidants.

Exercise The greatest remedy to counteract sarcopenia and frailty is physical activity-essentially, any form of activity or exercise which involves muscular-skeletal work, because muscular contractions stimulate myokine release. Low physical activity is not only associated with loss of muscle and myokines but it is also associated with low energy, fatigue, weight gain and metabolic disturbances. Therefore, as we reach 50, endurance and strength {weights)exercises become important, since these activities force the muscle fibers to contract and work producing maximum benefits. Cycling, swimming or a brisk walk for 30 minutes or longer are great endurance exercises, whereas climbing stairs or 5 to 10 half squats, 3 times a day serve as excellent resistance-type activities. For those who work at computers, frequent breaks incorporating some muscular exertion is essential.

Nutrition Poor protein intake contributes to sarcopenia. Consequently, knowing that protein provides the building blocks for the musculoskeletal system. Sufficient protein is required for growth, maintenance and repair. When protein levels are low, muscles lose strength, size and function i.e. sarcopenia.

Antioxidants - Astaxanthin & Tocotrienol Due to the mechanics of muscles and joints, they are constantly subjected to oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which facilitate sarcopenia, joint disease and frailty. A latest US study has shown that taking a formulation of 12mg of astaxanthin with tocotrienol for 90 days was able to reduce oxidative stress & reduce inflammation. Best of all, this formula suppressed sarcopenia and improved muscle mass (2.5%),strength (11%) and endurance (45%) in senior individuals (65 to 85 years old) who already demonstrated signs of sarcopenia and frailty.

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