I have a new word to add to your lexicon – sarcopenia. You are all familiar with it even if you have not heard the term before. It was a new one for me, too.
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Sarcopenia means age-related muscle wasting and was discussed in yesterday’s Star Tribune Variety section in an article entitled “Strong Arm Tactics”. Here is an interesting statistic from that article.
“…adults who don’t have a strength-training regimen risk losing 1/2 to 2 percent of muscle mass a year between ages 30 and 80.”
The article also refers to a study published in JAMA whose test subjects (nursing home residents over the age of 90) were given a strength training regimen for 8 weeks and made major improvements in muscle mass and strength.
So no matter what your age, you need vigorous strength training three times a week to maintain (and gain – when you push yourself) muscle mass and strength.
A few months ago, I read an article in the New York Times Personal Business section entitled “Caring for Hips and Knees to Avoid Artificial Joints“. It had some interesting statistics I’d like to share with you. In 2007, the cost in the US for hip replacements was $19 billion and for knees, $26 billion and the numbers are expected to rise. A typical joint replacement surgery costs between $30,000 and $40,000. With insurance you may still have out-of-pocket expenses of $3,000 – $4,000 plus the cost of time off for the surgery and recovery. This is becoming a big business as people start getting osteoarthritis in their 30s and 40s rather than 50s and 60s and therefore need replacements sooner and possibly multiple times. I’ve been hearing ads on the radio for joint replacement surgery. In essence it is telling you not to let joint pain interrupt your life, get in and get your joints replaced. If you are at the point were this is your only option, then I say go ahead and get it done. If you are not there yet, read on.
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My father has had both a hip and a knee replaced, and although he is feeling less pain now, it has not been an easy road and things are not as good as they once were. After his hip replacement, he ended up with an even shorter leg than he had prior to surgery (a contributing factor to the deteriorating hip joint in the first place) and now has to wear a lift in one shoe or have one heal built up (an added expense) and can’t go barefoot for any length of time. As for the knee replacement, it was complicated and extremely painful. Now I’m not saying don’t have joint replacement surgery if you need it, but think how much better it would be not to need it!
The article mentions several ways to avoid the cost and pain of osteoarthritis, one of the main reasons people get a joint replaced. The first is controlling your weight. As your weight increases, so does your risk for osteoarthritis, particularly of the knee joint and even more in women than men. A woman’s risk of osteoarthritis of the knee drops in half if she loses just 10 pounds! Another suggestion is to get fit with a low impact form of exercise. The muscle you build up around joints act as shock absorbers and decrease the likely hood of injury. Finally, they say don’t waste your money on specialized nutrients like shark cartilage and glucosamine and choindroitin as they are expensive and of limited benefit. I would add to that, though, that high quality Omega 3 supplements are the exception and will give you a good bang for your buck.
The Kettlebell Swing
So here is my plug: swinging a kettlebell is a great form of low impact exercise that strengthens the muscles across both the knee and hip joints and will burn a lot of calories to help you get excess weight off. If you don’t have a kettlebell at home, I recommend getting one or get in to Forza! three times a week. Take your fish oil supplements! Care for your joints now, avoid expensive and painful surgeries. Your joints will feel better and you will be doing your part to lower the national health bill!