Most older people are probably not aware that they are victims of Sarcopenia, but are likely to be aware of its effects. A quick online ‘consultation with Doctor Google’ will advise that Sarcopenia is the fancy medical term for muscle wasting – general loss of muscle mass, strength and function which is a consequence of ageing.
However, it is not a new age phenomenon; the problem of loss of muscle mass has been recognised for over twenty centuries, with one article raising its status to “a predominant concern of mankind”. That may be taking it a bit too far in this age of the Coronavirus pandemic, global warming, species extinction and other environmental concerns, but as the years roll by it does tend to become an issue for some.
The general advice is that there are no effective medical or pharmacological remedies for this condition, and the age old, recommended remedy, is exercise and resistance training along with a bit of attention to healthy nutrition.
Resistance training involves weightlifting, pulling against resistance bands or moving part of your body against the force of gravity, all of which can be a challenge for some older people who are unable or unwilling to embark on strenuous exercise programmes.
So, what about walking as a preventative measure for the dreaded sarcopenia? The advice is that any form of physical activity has advantages and walking has the additional benefit of a low cost of entry. This means that virtually anyone, regardless of age or ability can start walking as a form of regular exercise. There are those who advocate for 10,000 steps per day, but recent studies have shown advantages plateau at around 7,500, so there may not be much more benefit in making that extra effort.
Walking keeps our bodies functioning, can improve cardiac health, alleviate depression, and prevent muscle wastage, so it is worth a crack if you are able. It is even more enjoyable if you can find a friend or companion to accompany you. And there are places in and around Wellington to enjoy a quiet walk, with the distinct possibility to stop for a coffee and a breather if required. Anywhere on the waterfront from the railway station round to Evans Bay, and even further, has the advantage of a flat terrain.
If you are thinking of walking, uncertain about your ability to achieve such goals, or need a companion to provide that extra feeling of confidence if you get into difficulties, Age Concern Wellington Region provides a Companion Walking Service aimed at improving the lives of older people, particularly those who may need a little assistance to get out and about. It may not reverse the effects of Sarcopenia, but at least we can aim to slow its progress and provide the perfect excuse for getting out in the fresh air.
The aim is to match those requiring the service with a compatible volunteer companion trained in Health and Safety and cleared via the police vetting service. The service operates in Wellington, Porirua and Lower Hutt.