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Immobilisation causes shocking muscle-mass loss

Immobilisation causes shocking muscle-mass loss

Being immobilised for two weeks can lead to a significant decrease in muscle strength.

New research from Copenhagen University’s Centre for Healthy Ageing and Department of Biomedical Sciences found preventing normal walking in a group of otherwise healthy young people caused them to lose a third of their muscle strength. The participants were also left with the walking ability of someone 50 years older.

Published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, researchers point out that it takes three times the time spent inactive to rebuild previous strength.

"Our experiments reveal that inactivity affects the muscular strength in young and older men equally," Dr Andreas Vigelsoe said.

"Having had one leg immobilised for two weeks, young people lose up to a third of their muscular strength, while older people lose approximately one quarter.

"A young man who is immobilised for two weeks loses muscular strength in his leg equivalent to ageing by 40 or 50 years."

The findings also showed that young people lost twice as much muscle mass as older individuals.

To regain muscle strength, Dr Vigelsoe suggests including weight training in your fitness routine.

"The more muscle mass you have, the more you’ll lose… if you’re fit and become injured, you’ll most likely lose more muscle mass than someone who is unfit," Dr Martin Gram added.

"[But] it is likely to have a greater impact on [older people’s] general health and quality of life."

Those who are bedridden or unable to walk because of injury will obviously not be able to suddenly become active. However, the findings should serve as a warning for people that shun being physical.

A separate study recently found that one in five people in the UK now walk for less than 15 minutes a day. Instead of hitting the pavement, people are much more likely to get in their cars and drive. With the sunny weather firmly upon us, now is the time to soak up some fresh air and walk that bit further. Tried and tested advice like get off the bus one stop early or walking to the station always work, but try adding in a walk around the block at lunch or at the end of the day if you're pushed for time in the mornings.

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