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Loss of strength with aging

The older you become, the more you need to exercise. Researchers at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania measured grip strength in older men at baseline and an average of seven years later (Aging Male, September-December 2005). The men squeezed a machine that measured the force that they could exert. They lost 20 percent of their grip strength in seven years. The older they were, the more they lost. Those who lost the most height or weight, those on calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure, and those who took in the most caffeine had greater losses of strength. Loss of height is linked to osteoporosis, which is associated with loss of muscle. High blood pressure and unintentional weight loss indicate other health problems. No explanation was offered for the association of caffeine with loss of muscle strength.

These results are expected. Muscles are made of millions of individual muscle fibers. A single nerve innervates each fiber. With aging, a person loses nerve fibers that cause loss of each connected muscle fiber. However, you can continue to build strength in the remaining muscle fibers into your 90's and beyond. Perhaps all people over 50 should get a stress electrocardiogram as a screening test to see if exercise is likely to harm them. If they pass the test, they should start or continue an exercise program that includes some form of strength training such as lifting weights or using strength-training machines.

Weight Lifting for Middle-Age and Beyond

Checked 7/19/12

May 10th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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