Claire Stewart, a Professor of Stem Biology at Liverpool’s John Moores University spoke to us about how we can stay healthy and slow down muscle loss during a lockdown.
Sputnik: How big of a role does muscle mass play in our health?
Claire Stewart: Well, in my view, it plays an incredibly important role, you know, if you consider that the adult human body is comprised of about 40 to 50% of muscle, and then really, it's got to be there for a reason. And it enables all sorts of things in life, it enables our development, it facilitates our growth, it allows us to walk and to move it provides us with energy, obviously, metabolism, and ultimately it also facilitates our ability to breathe. So a lot of people would argue that muscle and health go hand in hand and that it's central to our survival. And there is some data to suggest that if you lose approximately 40% of your muscle mass, then that's actually incompatible with life. So it really is fundamental to our health.
Sputnik: Could current Covid-19 restrictions damage or decrease our muscle mass?
Claire Stewart: Yeah, absolutely and that's true, really, in all people, so not just restricted to older individuals. So if we are facing restrictions, be they currently tier two or tier three restrictions or if you are a person who is self-isolating then, by default, you'll see a decline in your physical activity. And we'll be spending much more time simply being sedentary as a result. We might be more stressed, our dietary habits might change, so we might be eating more. Actually, we might become malnourished and as a consequence of that, we will see a reduction in our muscle mass. We might face issues of depression and apathy and as a result, we might be less inclined to move, we might become even more sedentary and so we ultimately enter into a bit of a vicious circle. So if we then aren't moving, we'll probably see increases in fat gains, we might have early metabolic issues and I think this will be really compounded in older people who already have a lower muscle mass compared to younger individuals, for example. So they have lower muscle mass, there might be a decline in their confidence being housebound, increases in weakness might be associated with fears of falling. And so again, they'll become more sedentary. And so they'll lose their muscle mass. So it really is a vicious circle across the agents
Sputnik: How can we prevent or slow down muscle loss?
Claire Stewart: Well, there's actually there's an awful lot we can do. And it's really all about trying to maintain a healthy diet, a balanced diet with you know, good quality protein, but it's also very much about trying to keep active within the constraints of the government guidance and really within the constraints of your own personal health. It's really important to try and get fresh air and sunlight where that's possible so going for walks or going for bike rides would be really beneficial. Housekeeping as much as I hate to say it, you know, that uses your muscles, that'll keep you active as will gardening if you're fortunate enough to have a garden. But then home-based exercises are really also important and these can be done very safely so you could do leg raises in bed if you're worried about doing you know exercise at home if you're worried about falling, chair risers, these are useful things to do, stair risers while using bannisters to hold on for safety for example. If you've got resistance bands, they are really good for both upper and lower body strength. But I think for me, what it really is all about is reducing the amount of time that you spend seated. So if there is a fear of doing exercise because you're home alone with no one there to help you, then simply getting up and spending five minutes every hour walking around will be significantly better than staying in your chair all day. So I think for me, we really need to be working out for our health now. And that needs to be whatever you can do within the constraints in which you live.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.