Research Based Activity on Strength and Muscle Mass Loss with Aging Process: Age and Strength Loss Essay Example

Research Based Activity on Strength and Muscle Mass Loss with Aging Process: Age and Strength Loss


Natural observations show that people tend to become more lean and frail as they age. To understand this physiological life process, the student conducted a research-based activity using primary articles relevant to the topic. The article ‘Strength and muscle loss with aging process: Age and strength loss’ by Keller and Engelhardt (2013) was helpful for this activity.

Amaral et al (2014) define aging as a multi-factorial physiological process resulting in changes in the quantity and quality of skeletal muscle and causing decline levels of muscle strength. Also, according to Keller and Engelhardt (2013); Koster et al (2011); Nogueira et al (2013), aging is associated with low muscle mass and strength. A person at the age of 50 is not as strong and muscular as one at the age of 30. Several studies show that strength and muscle mass begin to decline in the third decade of life (Keller & Engelhardt, 2013; Kilgour et al 2013). Keller and Engelhardt (2013) came to the conclusion that aging process is associated with distinct muscle and strength loss after conducting research on 26 healthy individuals, grouped into two: 14 were less that 40 years while 12 were more than 40 years.

Loss of muscle mass results from reduced number of muscle fibres and motor units leading to reduced size of the muscle fibre (Keller & Engelhardt 2013). Consequently, loss of muscle fibre reduces strength capacities because of reduced strength per motor unit leading to reduced muscle metabolism (Thomas 2007). There is low rate of muscle protein synthesis and repair in aging increasing the risk of muscle damage and one is prone to falls and fracture (Kilgour et al 2013; Mitchell et al 2012). In a cross-sectional study of two groups of patients in a Japan health facility, Tetsuro et al (2014) found that the group of hip fracture patients had sarcopenia and reduced leg muscle as compared to the group without hip fracture. Other processes associated with muscle fibre reduction are loss of neurons and nervous system impairment (Keller & Engelhardt 2013).

Causes of strength and muscle mass loss during aging are as follows: First, with aging, the human body experiences deficiencies of anabolic hormones such as growth hormones, androgens and estrogens leading to changes which include muscle wasting and strength loss (Keller & Engelhardt 2013). Second, lack of physical activity prevents strength development and leads to muscle mass loss (Keller & Engelhardt 2013).Third, co-morbidities in old age such as myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, deep vein thrombosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and other inflammatory conditions also lead to strength and muscle mass loss (Keller & Engelhardt 2013). Schaap et al (2005) found that high levels of inflammatory factors IL-6 and CRP in old people increased risk of strength and muscle mass loss. Fourth, Sarcopenia, a syndrome defined as progressive skeletal system malfunction in the elderly also leads to loss of strength and muscle mass (Kim & Choi 2013). In addition to physical disability, sarcopenia may also lead to low life quality and even mortality (Keller and Engelhardt 2013; McLean et al 2014).

Thus, the key concepts to achieve from this activity are:

  • To enhance understanding of why muscle mass and strength decline with aging.

  • To know the causes of strength and muscle mass loss during aging.

  • To increase awareness of risk factors associated with loss of strength and muscle mass in aging.


  1. What is aging?

Aging is a physiological change in the human body composition taking place over years and is associated with reduced strength and muscle mass loss and generally low physical capacity (Amaral et al 2014; Keller & Engelhardt 2013).

  1. What happens during aging?

During aging, there is a significant loss of the muscular system which usually accounts for about 40 percent of the human body (Keller & Engelhardt 2013). The body progressively becomes frail even for healthy but elderly individuals (Kilgour et al 2013).

  1. How is loss of muscle mass and strength determined in aging populations?

Anthropometric measurements of age, height and weight (Keller & Engelhardt 2013) can be used to determine loss of muscle mass and strength in that people with many years will have lesser height and weight measurements compared to those with fewer years.

  1. When does strength and muscle mass loss occur in aging?

Usually, people experience maximum physical capacity between 20 and 30 years of life after which transformations in physical capacity begin taking place (Keller & Engelhardt 2013; Kilgour et al 2013).

  1. What are some of the physiological causes of aging?

Hormonal body changes during menopause and andropause trigger transformations that contribute to declined muscle fibre synthesis and declined strength. Physical inactivity associated with low pace of life at old age also contributes to low strength and muscle mass loss (Amaral et al 2014; Keller & Engelhardt 2013; Kim & Choi 2013).

  1. Describe the aging syndrome of Sarcopenia

Sarcopenia, the cause of aging describes strength and muscle loss is lost without being triggered by factors such as hormones, proteins or physical controlling factors such as exercise (Mitchell et al 2012). Sarcopenia is almost a mandatory with aging of the human body as even healthy elderly patients will experience sarcopenia (Kilgour et al 2013).

  1. What risks/problems may arise from age-related strength and muscle mass loss?

Several studies have shown that elderly people with low strength and declined muscle mass are prone to disability, loss of independence, falls and fractures, poor life quality and increased risk of mortality (Inacio et al 2014; Keller & Engelhardt 2013; Kigour et al 2013; Mitchell et al 2012; Tetsuro et al 2014)

  1. What is the importance of the topic in this research activity?

Understanding the factors that cause loss of muscle and strength with advancing age is important because demographics change with the young growing old in time (Tetsuro et al 2012).

  1. What is the importance of engaging with this information

Engaging with information about strength and muscle mass loss in old age will help to gain knowledge about how to treat old people as they also strive to go on with their day-to-day life.

  1. What is the implication of this topic to physiological lifecycle changes

It is necessary to understand how to minimize risks associated with low strength and muscle mass such as fractures, falls and mortality in this population and help them improve their quality of life (Tetsuro et al 2012).

List of References:

Amaral, J Alvim, F Castro, E Doimo, L Silva, M & Novo, JM 2014, ‘Influence of aging on isometric muscle strength, fat-free mass and electromyographic signal power of the upper and lower limbs in women’, Brazilian Journal of Physical Therapy, vol. 19.

Inacio, M Ryan, A Bair W, Prettyan, M Beamer, B & Rogers, W 2014, ‘Gluteal muscle composition differentiates fallers from non-fallers in community dwelling older adults’, BMC Geriatrics, vol. 14, no. 37, pp. 1-8.

Keller, K & Engelhardt, M. 2013, ‘Strength and muscle mass loss with aging process. Age and strength loss’, Muscle Ligaments Tendons Journal, vol 3, no. 4, pp. 346-350.

Kilgour, A Gallagher, I MacLullich, AJ Andrew, R Gray, CD Hyde, P Wackerhage, H Husi, H Rossm JA Starr, JM Chapman, KE Fearon, KH Walker, BR & Greig, CA 2013, ‘Increased skeletal muscle 11βHSD1 mRNA is associated with lower muscle strength in ageing’, PLoS ONE, vol.8 no. 12, pp. 1-6.

Kim, S & Choi, K 2013, ‘Sarcopenia: definition, epidemiology, and pathophysiology’, Journal of Bone Metabolism, vol. 20, no. 1, pp. 1-10.

Koster, A Ding, J Stenholm, S Caserotti, P Houston, D Nicklas, B You, T Lee, J Visser, M Newman, A Schwartz, A Cauley, J Tylavsky, F Goodpaster, B Kritchevsky, S & Harris, T 2011, ‘Does the amount of fat mass predict age-related loss of lean mass, muscle strength and muscle quality in older adults? Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, vol. 66A, no. 8, pp. 888-895.

McLean, R Shardell, M Alley, D Cawthon, P Fragala, M Harris, T Kenny, A Peters, K Ferrucci, L Guralnik, J Kritchevsky, S Vassileva, M Zue, Q Perera, S Studenski, S & Dam, T 2014, ‘Criteria for clinically relevant weakness and low mean mass and their longitudinal association with incident mobility impairment and mortality: The foundation for the National Institutes of Health (FNIH) Sarcopenia project’, Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, vol. 69, no. 5, pp. 576-583.

Mitchel K, Williams J, Atherton P, Larvin M, Lund J, & Narici M, 2012, ‘Sarcopenia, dynapenia and the impact of advancing age on human skeletal muscle size and strength: A quantitative review’, Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 3, pp. 2-33.

Nogueira F, Libardi C, Vechin FC, Lixandrao ME, Berton R, Frota de Souza T, Conceiao M, Cavaglieri CR, & Chacon-Mikahil T. 2013, ‘Comparison on maximal muscle strength of elbow flexors and knee extensors between younger and older men with the same level of daily activity’ Clinical Intervention in Aging vol. 8, pp. 401-407.

Schaap, L Pluijm, S Deeq, D & Visser, M 2006, ‘Inflammatory markers and loss of muscle mass (Sarcopenia) and strength’, American Journal of Medicine, vol. 119, no. 6, pp. 526.e9-e17.’

Tetsuro, H Naoki, I Hiroshi, S Yoshihito, S Yasumoto, M Takemura, M Yasuto, T & Harada, A 2014, ‘High prevalence of sarcopenia and reduced leg muscle mass in Japanese patients immediately after a hip fracture’, Geriatrics & Gerontology International, vol. 13, pp. 413-420.

Thomas, DR. 2007, ‘Loss of skeletal muscle mass in aging: Examining the relationship of starvation, sarcopenia and cachexia’, Clinical Nutrition vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 389-399.