Muscle – How Quickly We Lose It

I recently accompanied my young 23 year old son to an orthopedic appointment. On Thanksgiving day just 3 months ago, he and my husband were enjoying a competitive game of pickleball, when all of sudden our son hyperextended his knee and went down hard when trying to return a shot. He wound up dislocating his kneecap, tearing a chunk of cartilage and bone from the underside of his kneecap, and tearing the medial patellofemoral ligament. Who would’ve thought all this from a fun game of pickleball?!

So at this orthopedic appointment, the doctor was examining his work on our son’s surgically repaired knee. I couldn’t help but notice how atrophied both his quadriceps and calf muscles appeared in his injured leg compared to these same muscles in his other leg. His injured leg is about 2/3 the size of his healthy leg! He is an otherwise young healthy man, and this was a mere 3-month window of very limited use of that leg.

My son’s story made me also reflect on my father’s health in the last few years of life, and how his quality of life changed so drastically during this time period. As we transitioned him from independent living to assisted living, and finally to a nursing home, the one thing that stood out in all of these scenarios was the lack of strength and muscle in the older adult population to do what we consider the most basic acts of everyday living. Most seniors in these facilities could not independently get out of a chair, let alone toilet or dress themselves. They were reliant on nursing care for everything. How might my Dad or any of these seniors have felt if they were able to live more independently for a few more months or years?

There is a common denominator in both of these examples – strength and muscle! There is much truth in the statement, “use it or lose it.” Muscle mass will naturally decrease at a rate of 3%-8% per decade after the age of 30. These are some of the many reasons why your coaches, and hopefully your doctors too, teach the value of resistance training for building strength and muscle.

Think of the strength and muscle that you build now as deposits into a savings account that you can draw from as you get older. Strength and muscle are important for a multitude of reasons – I could write a separate post about that – but maybe most importantly, strength and muscle help ensure independence and a high quality of life as we get older. And it’s never too late to start!

The power of strength and muscle – feel strong, feel well, feel confident, move better, look good 😍, and live independently! 😉