How to Tell If You Have Sarcopenia
The signs of sarcopenia are the result of diminished muscle strength.
Early signs of sarcopenia include feeling physically weaker over time, and having more difficulty than usual lifting familiar objects (17).
A hand-grip-strength test has been used to help diagnose sarcopenia in studies, and may be used in some clinics (18).
Decreased strength might show itself in other ways too, including walking more slowly, becoming exhausted more easily and having less interest in being active (17).
However, these signs can also occur in other medical conditions. Yet if you experience one or more of these and can’t explain why, talk to a health professional.
SUMMARY: Noticeable loss of strength or stamina and unintentional weight loss are signs of multiple diseases, including sarcopenia. If you are experiencing any of these without a good reason, talk to your doctor.
Exercise Can Reverse Sarcopenia
The strongest way to fight sarcopenia is to keep your muscles active (19).
Combinations of aerobic exercise, resistance training and balance training can prevent and even reverse muscle loss. At least two to four exercise sessions weekly may be required to achieve these benefits (20).
All types of exercise are beneficial, but some more than others.
1. Resistance Training
Resistance training includes weightlifting, pulling against resistance bands or moving part of the body against gravity.
When you perform resistance exercise, the tension on your muscle fibers results in growth signals that lead to increased strength. Resistance exercise also increases the actions of growth-promoting hormones (21, 22).
These signals combine to cause muscle cells to grow and repair themselves, both by making new proteins and by turning on special muscle stem cells called “satellite cells,” which reinforce existing muscle (22).
Thanks to this process, resistance exercise is the most direct way to increase muscle mass and prevent its loss.
A study of 57 adults aged 65–94 showed that performing resistance exercises three times per week increased muscle strength over 12 weeks.
In this study, exercises included leg presses and extending the knees against resistance on a weight machine (23).
2. Fitness Training
Sustained exercise that raises your heart rate, including aerobic exercise and endurance training, can also control sarcopenia (24).
Most studies of aerobic exercise for the treatment or prevention of sarcopenia have also included resistance and flexibility training as part of a combination exercise program.
These combinations have been consistently shown to prevent and reverse sarcopenia, although it is often unclear whether aerobic exercise without resistance training would be as beneficial (25).
One study examined the effects of aerobic exercise without resistance training in 439 women over 50 years of age.
The study found that five days per week of cycling, jogging or hiking increased muscle mass. Women started with 15 minutes of these activities per day, increasing to 45 minutes over 12 months (26).
Walking can also prevent and even reverse sarcopenia, and it’s an activity most people can do for free, anywhere they live.
A study of 227 Japanese adults over 65 years old found that six months of walking increased muscle mass, particularly in those who had low muscle mass (27).
The distance each participant walked was different, but they were encouraged to increase their total daily distance by 10% each month.
Another study of 879 adults over age 60 found that faster walkers were less likely to have sarcopenia (28).
SUMMARY: Exercise is the most effective way to reverse sarcopenia. Resistance training is best to increase muscle mass and strength. However, combination exercise programs and walking also fight sarcopenia.