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By Mark Grevelding
Often referred to as “middle-age spread,” weight gain is an inevitable rite of passage for many as they age. Age-related muscle loss, also called sarcopenia, contributes to much of that weight gain. According to the American Council on Exercise, most adults start losing about a half-pound of muscle each year, starting at around age 30. Some loss of this tissue is expected as we age, but most is due to inactivity.
As the human body loses muscle, the ratio of body fat increases, causing the metabolism to slow down, which means you gain weight even if you aren’t eating any differently. Additional side-effects of this tissue loss include weakness, decreased stamina and overall frailty that can lead to falls and fractures. The good news is that age-related muscle loss can be slowed down and even reversed.
Combatting Age-Related Muscle Loss
The most common recommendation for combatting age-related muscle loss is to perform resistance training. Along with resistance training, a high protein diet is also recommended. Strength training and protein consumption go hand in hand in helping the body build and maintain muscle mass. However, building this tissue is not just about strength, according to Dr. Thomas W. Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Muscle power, how fast and efficiently you move, is more connected to the activities of daily living and physical function than muscular strength,” he stated in an article by Harvard Health Publishing. Training muscle power involves doing physical activities with more speed and force.
As an aquatic fitness training specialist for the past 20 years, I can confidently say that the best environment to train strength and power is in the water. With less impact, it is safer to exercise with increased force and speed. The viscosity of water also provides natural resistance in all directions when the body is submerged. That means muscle pairs on both sides of the joint are strengthened with every movement. Pool equipment such as webbed gloves, foam dumbbells and noodles can also be added for progressive resistance training.
Whether you exercise in a pool, a gym or your living room, it is important to explore strength training activities that you will enjoy and stay committed to. All activity is good, including gardening, walking, recreational sports and more.
Mark Grevelding is the founder of PoolFit, the only workout platform that specializes in water fitness and aquatic exercise. PoolFit’s on-demand exercise video platform and app provide nearly 100 water exercises and low impact, in-home fitness programs, including dozens of strength training workouts.