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Exercise can reverse muscle loss in seniors

Many seniors have been inactive for several weeks now due to the physical distancing measures that have been implemented to protect them from the COVID-19 virus.

Seniors who are living in retirement homes and long term care facilities have been the hardest hit because their families are not allowed to visit them in person. Addition, in facilities that are short-staffed, many seniors find themselves stuck in their rooms with little to no physical activity at all.

This is very serious because studies show that inactivity can lead to loss of muscle mass and strength. Consequently, these losses can lead to poor balance and cause falls among seniors. According to one study, "active older people who become sedentary for a couple weeks lose about 25 percent of their strength." This loss on muscle mass and strength tends to impact the overall health of seniors if not addressed immediately.

The good news is that muscle loss can be reversed! It can be reversed by physical activity.

More and more research studies show that physical activity can "promote mitochondrial health, increase protein turnover, and restore levels of signaling molecules involved in muscle function." In the article by The Scientist, it is described that exercise can increase the number of satellite cells (cells which are able to repair muscle) which is why "exercise prior to hip and knee surgery can speed up recovery in the elderly."

Physiotherapists and kinesiologists can help seniors maintain a regular routine of physical activity. After an assessment of the senior's condition and level of mobility, they can prescribe exercises that would help in strengthening the muscles and in improving balance.

In-person or virtual sessions can make a difference in the lives of seniors during this pandemic. In our experience with seniors, we have seen firsthand how our senior clients were impacted by inactivity for a couple of months. We learned that some of them had falls while others felt much weaker than before they were in isolation.

We are happy that with the gradual ease in restrictions, we are able to visit them and help them regain their strength and balance through regular exercise. We have seen that most of them are so excited to go back to physical activity because they feel much better when they see that they are regaining their strength, balance, and independence.

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