Pinpointing age-related muscle loss

The loss of muscle mass and strength is often an unfortunate side effect of ageing.  Sarcopenia, as it is scientifically called, can seriously impact health, wellbeing and quality of life.

The potentially life-threatening condition affects mobility, increases the risk of falls and fractures and often affects independence.
But Uniting AgeWell and Victoria University are working together to try to change that through the ‘Your Muscles Matter’ study, which recruited participants in March.

Sarcopenia was formally recognised as a disease in the United States in 2016 and there is an expectation that Australia will soon follow.  That recognition will bring increased awareness, diagnosis and a market for treatments for people living with the condition.

Uniting AgeWell and Victoria University aim to be at the forefront of Australia’s research.  The university’s team is investigating whether – along with other health benefits – the incidence of sarcopenia reduces as participants gain muscle mass, strength and function.

Regional Manager AgeWell Centres Melbourne, Amanda Mehegan, said researchers would test increasing evidence that demonstrated therapeutic interventions, particularly resistance training, improved health and quality of life outcomes for those with or at risk of sarcopenia.

More than 100 Uniting AgeWell clients from the Forest Hill, Hawthorn, Noble Park and Oakleigh AgeWell Centres have volunteered to be involved in the study.

“We had an amazing response from our very engaged clients,” she said.

“We have kicked off the study with clinical body density scans and are working through physical assessments for all participants.  Our clients have especially loved gaining insight into their bone and muscle health from the body density scans.  This has been a real motivator for them.”

Noble Park AgeWell Centre client Bernie Lellyett, who is participating in the study, formally exercises two or three times a week and leads an active lifestyle.

The 81-year-old (pictured) feels relatively fit and strong but wanted to participate in the study to help gather valuable information to help his peers.

“I think it’s beneficial for everyone if these types of studies are done because we get information that might help us in the long run.”

Over the next several months, the participants will work through their individual exercise programs under the supervision of Uniting AgeWell exercise physiologists and physiotherapists.

Researchers will evaluate the participants’ food intake, quality of life, sarcopenia risk and physical ability – strength, balance and other functions – throughout the study.

Uniting AgeWell will share the results of the study when they become available.