- Regular exercise in older adults helps increase muscle mass and nutrition had an additional effect.
- Muscle strength increased after exercise intervention and dietary supplementation showed additional benefits.
- Gait, speed, chair rising test, which denote physical performance improved after regular exercise.
Aging has various effects in the body and muscle loss is one of them. When muscle mass and muscle function falls below defined thresholds, it is identified as sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia's impact can be enormous as it affects mobility, balance, risk of falls and fractures, and overall ability to perform tasks of daily living.
‘Physical activity and primarily resistance training interventions, have a positive impact on muscle strength and physical performance in older adults.’
Review of Studies
A new study looked at a total of 37 randomized clinical trials. The studies were heterogeneous both in terms of protocols for physical exercise and in regard to dietary supplementation. The various supplements used included proteins, essential amino acids, creatine, β-hydroxy-β-methylbuthyrate, vitamin D, multi-nutrients and others.
Physical activity and nutritional supplementation have been investigated in several interventional studies. Recently, Cruz-Jentoft et al. published a systematic review summarizing studies assessing the effect of physical activity and/or dietary supplementation on sarcopenia.
Results indicated that most exercise trials showed an improvement of muscle strength and physical performance with physical activity, predominantly resistance training interventions.
Professor Ren Rizzoli, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at University Hospitals of Geneva, stated: "Previous trials have shown that physical activity, and primarily resistance training interventions, have a positive impact on muscle strength and physical performance. Other studies have suggested that certain dietary supplements play a role in muscle mass or function. However, more needs to be learned about the synergistic effects of these two interventions."
Exercise for Better Muscle Function
Physical exercise was found to have a positive impact on muscle mass and muscle function in healthy subjects aged 60 years and older. The greatest effect of exercise intervention, of any type, was observed on physical performance (gait speed, chair rising test, balance, SPPB test). Based on the included studies, mainly performed in well-nourished subjects, the combined effect of dietary supplementation on muscle function was less than expected.
Professor Elaine Dennison, Professor of Musculoskeletal Epidemiology and Honorary Consultant in Rheumatology within Medicine at the University of Southampton, noted: "Among the challenges in carrying out this study was the great heterogeneity in the RCTs, including in the exercise protocols and in the dosage of supplementation, all of which contributes to the variable findings between studies."
Nevertheless, the results of the systematic review show the overwhelming positive impact of exercise interventions. One should also bear in mind that the majority of studies included in this systematic review looked at primarily healthy older subjects. It is likely that populations with nutritional or physical deficiencies would benefit more from nutritional interventions than well-nourished populations."
The study authors point to a need for more well-designed studies assessing the impact of a combined exercise intervention and dietary intervention in frail and sarcopenic populations, and in populations suffering from nutritional deficiency or at risk of malnutrition.
Furthermore, future studies should include rigorous documentation of the subjects' baseline exercise levels and nutritional status prior to the implementation of intervention regimens.
- Beaudart C et al., Nutrition and physical activity in the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia: systematic review, Osteoporosis International (2017)