Sarcopenia is the decrease of skeletal muscle mass with aging, which impairs performance and muscle strength (needed to handle objects, shake hands, etc). (walking and making other routine movements effectively). It involves ongoing inflammation and is linked to mental decline, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory conditions. In essence, it degrades the quality of life by limiting independence and raising the chance of accidents, falls, and even fatalities.
15% of adults over 60 and 46% of people over 80 have sarcopenia. Certain age groups are prone to sleep disturbances as well. Increased inflammation is closely linked to the aging process and sleep issues. According to a report in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, researchers from the Federal University of So Paulo (UNIFESP) and the University of Viçosa (UFV), Minas Gerais, did a study in Brazil with an emphasis on the connections between these elements.
Earlier research by the team suggested a link between rat muscle atrophy and sleep deprivation. “Our studies of animal models showed that sleep debt causes muscle atrophy and impairs muscle restoration, in a process that closely resembles sarcopenia involving type 2, or ‘fast-twitch’, muscle fibers,” said Helton de Sá Souza, first author of the article and a professor at UFV’s Department of Physical Education. “Our group had also observed poorer sleep in older people with sarcopenia than older people without this diagnosis.”
Since resistance exercise can synchronize biological rhythms, increase total sleep time, decrease sleep fragmentation, increase muscle mass and strength, and support immune system function by reducing inflammation, the group set out to determine whether the findings for humans would be similar to those for rats.
In the study, a resistance exercise training program was completed three times per week for three months by 14 adults with an average age of roughly 75 and sarcopenia. Eight exercises for significant muscular groups (chest, back, shoulders, arms, biceps, triceps, and front and back of thighs) alternated between the upper and lower limbs made up the program. It started out at a modest intensity and increased to 80% of its maximum force in the last 8 weeks.
In order to learn more about the lifestyle modifications suggested for battling the disease, 14 more volunteers in the same age range who were also diagnosed with sarcopenia took part exclusively in weekly meetings with various healthcare professionals. Physical therapists, dietitians, doctors, and experts in physical education provided support to all 28 participants during the trial.
Participants also had a series of examinations, such as blood work to measure inflammatory, hormonal, and metabolic markers, body composition analysis, physical function testing, and sleep analysis. For the purpose of comparison, the results were collected both before and after the interventions.
According to Souza, the main diagnostic marker of age-related sarcopenia is loss of skeletal muscle strength or performance associated with loss of muscle mass. “Loss of muscle mass is inherent in aging, but it becomes a problem in conjunction with reduced function [weakness] or performance [agility, balance, etc.],” he said. “If one of these parameters [strength or performance] can be improved, then we’ll be able to lessen the sarcopenia.”
In the study, all metrics of muscle strength improved in the participants submitted to the resistance training program, including handgrip and leg torque measured with a dynamometer.
“We also observed an improvement in objective and subjective sleep quality with the aid of polysomnography, and a reduction in inflammation based on parameters assessed by blood work],” said Vânia D’Almeida, last author of the article, a professor at UNIFESP’s Department of Psychobiology.
“Older people with sarcopenia tend to sleep badly, and the study showed that physical training both attenuated their sarcopenia and improved their sleep. This may be due to an increase in two anti-inflammatory cytokines [IL1ra and IL10] associated with muscle metabolism efficiency and possibly with sleep quality,” Souza explained.
The authors draw the conclusion that additional study is required to clarify how various age groups and genders, with and without sarcopenia, might exhibit distinct muscle and sleep responses to potentially anti-inflammatory therapies, like physical activity.
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