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Understanding Sarcopenia and Strength (pt. 1)

This article is for educational and entertainment purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for individual medical and fitness advice. Any use of the information contained in this article is at the discretion of the reader. David Bellomo and the Webb Weekly disclaim any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any information contained in this article.

According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, it is estimated that over 37 million people will be managing at least one chronic disease by the year 2030 and that by 2060 almost 24% of the US population will be aged 65 or older. One of the most significant chronic conditions that this aging population will face is the decline in mobility associated with the loss of lean mass and muscle strength. This age related condition is known as Sarcopenia which was first coined by Dr. Irwin Roesnburg in 1988. Sarcopenia orginates from the Greek words sarx, meaning flesh, and penia, meaning loss. Literally translated Sarcopenia means “poverty of the flesh”.

In a review of scholarly articles published in the July, 2016 issue of American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Doctors Delmonico and Beck found that in the year 2000, health care costs attributed to Sarcopenia-related conditions were estimated to be over $42 billion and likely increased along with the increase in the US aging population.

Sarcopenia is considered part of the aging process and is a multi-factor syndrome consisting of structural, hormonal, and functional changes. Unfortunately some of the decline we face though the aging process is inevitable. I was once teaching my friend some of the basic principles of exercise and said, “I’ve got bad news and good news for you. The bad news is we can’t stop aging. The good news is that we can slow it down.”

In my opinion strength is the foundation of health and one of the main keys in slowing down the decline in mobility associated with aging. I have said this before over the years and it is a statement that I still stand by. I know this is a bold statement but I have observed its truth time and time again. When I say strength I am using the most basic definition; the ability to move one’s self or manipulate their environment. This makes strength different to everyone and also relevant to everyone. For some, it might mean the ability to get out of a chair, to walk, to take a flight of stairs, or to lift a box. For others it may be to lift heavy weights, to wrestle, or to compete in some other athletic event.

Ultimately strength gives us the command over ourselves and our environment that allows us to do the things that give us joy. This is in no way to discount the benefits of eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, or performing some other type of formal exercise. My statement is simply that if a person lacks the basic strength to move, activities of daily living become difficult and life is less enjoyable.

In addition, a basic level of strength seems to be the catalyst for all of the other things we can control to keep ourselves healthy and living well. For example, when people want to make lifestyle changes they often begin a walking program first as movement begets the energy to become more active and make other changes such as a more nutritious diet.

The Second bold statement I will make is that virtually everyone should enlist in some formal strength training. In our mechanized society, modern conveniences are intended to give us more time. Instead they have have allowed us to cram more things into our already hectic day. We drive everywhere and park as close as possible to our destination. Computers allow us to shop for everything online, in the convenience of our own homes. Jobs that once involved manual labor are now automated and we are replaced by robots. In light of these changes, good and bad, I feel that it is necessary to devote a small portion of one’s day to strength and conditioning.

In part 2 of this article I will endeavor to boil the fundamentals of strength training down to a handful of simple keys that should get you well on your way to making it a regular part of your life.

Dave Bellomo welcomes your comments and can be reached at

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