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Sarcopenia and Lockdown

Following the first, worldwide, lockdowns in March, there were a number of studies documenting the effect that this period has had on sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is a condition characterised by a deterioration of muscle mass, combined with an increase in body fat.

Sarcopenia is associated with a number of chronic conditions including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and depression. High body fat is also a risk factor for C-19 infection. It is generally seen in older adults, but is becoming increasingly common in younger age groups.

It is not surprising, nor shameful, that most of us have gained a bit of weight over lockdown.

Lack of commuting, plus the closure of gyms and leisure facilities has lead to a 33.5% decrease in number of minutes per day of physical activity, according to one study published in GeroScience in October 2020.

This, combined with increased meal frequency (#workfromhomelife) and uptake of highly palatable but nutrient low foods such as takeaways (a rise of stress hormones increases your likelihood to choose unhealthy options), has lead to a general increase in body fat.

In addition, lack of vitamin D exposure, due to more time spent inside, also increases muscle loss.

The final cherry on top is the virus itself. The average time spent in hospital with Covid-19 is 11 days. Studies have shown that muscle loss (atrophy) can start after as little as 3 days of inactivity.

I doubt that this will come as much of a shock for most of us. I'm sure we're all feeling the strain on our health due to the pandemic- both the virus and the lockdown.

Although this lockdown doesn't look like it will end anytime soon, there are a number of things that we can still do to keep ourselves fit, healthy and strong.

1) Eat adequate protein to reduce muscle loss. Aim for 1-2g of protein per kg of bodyweight. Please see my earlier blog post for more tips on how to increase your protein intake.

2) Get adequate and regular sleep. Aim for 6-9 hours, getting to bed around the same time every night (ideally before 11pm). This can also help maintain lean muscle mass.

3) Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week plus two resistance based sessions (yoga and Pilates, and virtual circuilts, count).

4) Get outside every day for that all-important vitamin D. Being outdoors also lowers stress and anxiety.

5) Get your friends and family involved. Remember, you can meet one other person for exercise outdoors. What better motivation to go for that walk!

So, guys, tell me. How have you found this year? How has it impacted your body composition, and what are your strategies for managing this?

Anna x

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