Muscle Wasting and Mental Health – Role of Skeletal Muscle on Brain Function

Brain functionAs we age our muscles become smaller and weaker, a condition known as sarcopenia. Research has shown that sarcopenia leads to an increased risk of poor functional status (i.e. a limited ability to perform activities of daily living) and poor musculoskeletal/cardiometabolic health. There have been recent studies to show that sarcopenia may also affect mental health and increases the risk of common mental disorders (e.g. depression, anxiety).

There is data emerging from large epidemiological studies to suggest that low levels of muscle mass/sarcopenia is associated with poor mental health outcomes, such as an increased risk of developing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Possible physiological mechanisms for this relationship included the fact that low muscle mass is associated with low levels of a key brain derived called neurotrophins, which are important for mood enhancement and feelings of wellbeing. Moreover, low levels of muscle mass can lead to increase levels of inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, both of which have downstream effects on negative mood states. Importantly, the current literature suggests that strength training is the key lifestyle modification in preventing and treating sarcopenia. Indeed, when compared to the use of medications and dietary supplements, strength training had a greater effect in increase muscle mass and importantly less side effects.

The current public health guidelines recommend that an adult should do 2 or more strength training sessions a week involving large muscle groups (e.g. legs, chest, back and shoulders).   Source: Fitness Australia


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