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MOVE IT OR LOSE IT:
PREVENTING MUSCLE LOSS


Did you know that we start to lose muscle from as early as 40 years old, with an 8% drop in muscle mass
every 10 years? After the age of 70, the rate almost doubles to 15% each decade.


With the fast-ageing population in Singapore, sarcopenia — a condition that refers to progressive loss of
skeletal muscle mass and function — and its effect on daily activities is an increasingly important health issue. If left unaddressed, sarcopenia can lead to loss of independence arising from falls and fractures.


“As muscle loss progresses, older people may reduce their physical activities which can lead to their muscles being more and more deconditioned (loss of muscle tone and endurance). This increases the risks of falls and fractures,” says Associate Professor Melvin Chua, Senior Consultant and Head, Department of General Medicine at SKH.


Muscle is vital for overall health. It helps to maintain our body’s structure, movement, balance, and posture. We need muscles in order for us to be able to exercise and carry out daily activities.
Muscle loss in our lower limbs may also result in the elderly having greater difficulty in performing simple everyday tasks, such as climbing the stairs, lifting objects, and even getting up from a chair. Sarcopenia could lead to slower recovery from illnesses, leading to increased hospitalisations and frailty.


However, muscle weakening is not experienced by the elderly alone. While losing muscle is part of ageing, it also affects people who have a sedentary lifestyle (being physically inactive) for extended periods of time. Working from home these days and reduced physical activity due to the restrictions brought on by the pandemic can lead to muscle mass loss.


“Muscle strength is one of the key indicators of our overall health. When you lose muscle, you may face
a higher risk of disability and loss of independence, as well as physical fatigue and decreased immunity. Thus, it’s important for us to start taking active steps to build muscle strength,” explains Associate Professor Chua.


While we can’t reverse the natural ageing process, we can slow down muscle loss with balanced nutrition and exercise to build up our muscles, which also strengthens the bones and tendons.