Skeletal muscle mass reduction might be a consequence of aging (sarcopenia), disease (cachexia) or inactivity (muscle atrophy). Studying the triggering factors leading to muscle loss is important in developing therapies to preserve muscle tissue function. The loss of skeletal muscle proteins is caused by an imbalance between the rate of their synthesis and degradation. Specifically, the conditions characterized by muscle loss involve an adaptation metabolism of increased protein degradation (cachexia), decreased muscle protein synthesis (inactivity), or alteration in both (sarcopenia). Sarcopenia and exercise is the main topic chosen for this review. This is a huge health problem, poorly discussed in the current literature and the aim of this review is to explain and help readers to better understand the differences between “sarcopenia”, “cachexia”, “muscle atrophy” and the relative beneficial effects of exercise used as a possible therapeutic intervention. Sarcopenia is a component of the fragility syndrome and indicates a significant health issue related to the progressive decline of muscle tissue quality and strength. Exercise is associated with improved life quality, reduced health problems, and prolonged lifespan. The latter suggests that exercise should be considered a fundamental point in the treatment of pathological skeletal muscle mass reduction. The present scientific contribution also seeks to emphasize to the scientific community the positive effects of the adapted physical activity in the elderly as a possible non-pharmacologic treatment to prevent or treat muscle atrophy.
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