My question is straight forward.

How to stop Muscle atrophy? Does light exercises help??

  • 2
    Other than in certain diseases, the general method of preventing muscle atrophy is by using the muscles. Light exercises help, heavy exercises help, but if the existing degree of atrophy is severe, exercise with caution considering the potential for injury. – TheEnvironmentalist May 10 '16 at 22:41

Muscle atrophy doesn't have to be bad. Your body tries to fit the situation by decreasing your muscle mass and thus to decrease the needed energy to maintain your body. However, in order to prevent possible muscle atrophy, there have been several methods.

Exercise has been shown to be effective in preventing glucocorticoid-induced atrophy in muscles containing high proportions of type II or fast-twitch fibers. 1

In case you shouldn't know what different muscle fibers are and how they are distributed in your body, I've got you.

Humans have basically three different types of muscle fibers. Slow- twitch (ST or Type I) fibers are identified by a slow contraction time and a high resistance to fatigue. [...] Most activities of daily living use ST fibers. Fast-twitch (FT or Type II) fibers are identified by a quick con- traction time and a low resistance to fatigue. [...] Fast-twitch fibers are further divided into fast-twitch A (FT -A or Type IIA) and fast- twitch B (FT -B or Type lIB) fibers. FT -A fibers have a moderate resistance to fatigue and represent a transition between the two extremes of the ST and FT -B fibers. [...] Fast-twitch B fibers, on the other hand, are very sensitive to fatigue and are used for short anaerobic, high force production activities, such as sprinting, hurdling, jumping, and putting the shot. [...] 2

The distribution of different fiber types varied within the muscles, as a function of depth, with a predominance of type 2b fibers at the surface and type 1 fibers in deeper regions of the muscle. 3

So it's possible to prevent muscle atrophy in type II muscle fibers by simply exercising.

If you suffer from a serious illness or are physically-challenged, you can maintain your muscle mass by using functional electrical stimulation. The idea is to stimulate your cells so that they keep their current state or to provoke hypertrophy.

[...] Previous research shows that neuromuscular or `functional' electrical stimulation (FES), particularly FES-cycle ergometry (FES-CE) can cause muscle hypertrophy in individuals with chronic SCI (>1 year post-injury). However, the modest degree of hypertrophy in these already atrophied muscles has lessened earlier hopes that FES therapy would reduce secondary impairments of SCI. [...] 4

After a short search, I was able to find some experimental studies with rats to investigate muscle atrophy more deeply. It should be obvious that you shouldn't take in Clenbuterol without a consultation with your doctor and of course not solely on the results of the study.

Clenbuterol attenuated the decrease in muscle mass and single fiber cross-sectional area in both age groups. By preventing the loss of muscle mass, clenbuterol administered early in rehabilitation may benefit severely debilitated patients imposed by inactivity. [...] 5

The University of Hull did some research and found out that basic stretching for 30 minutes each day can prevent muscle atrophy in immobilized muscles.

[...] It was found that periods of stretch as short as 1/2 h daily were sufficient not only to prevent loss of sarcomeres but actually to cause an increase in the number of sarcomeres in series. [...] Such short periods of stretch were also found to prevent much of the muscle atrophy normally associated with immobilisation in the shortened position. 6

I'll end up with a study regarding the loss muscle mass in the elderly and how to promote muscle hypertrophy in them.

[...] Strength training appears to elicit effective countermeasures in elderly individuals even at a very old age (>80 years) by evoking muscle hypertrophy along with substantial changes in neuromuscular function, respectively. [...] 7

So long story short: The best way is to simply exercise to keep your muscles and yourself pumped, as @TheEnvironmentalist already said. There are indeed ways to do this by not exercising but the chemical idea as well as the functional electrical stimulation are still in progress. Nonetheless, you should read the corresponding Wikipedia article 8 to FES to inform yourself in this regard.

  1. http://jap.physiology.org/content/69/3/1058.abstract
  2. http://www.coachr.org/fiber.htm
  3. http://www.jbiomech.com/article/S0021-9290(04)00514-7/fulltext?mobileUi=0
  4. http://web.a.ebscohost.com/abstract?direct=true&profile=ehost&scope=site&authtype=crawler&jrnl=13624393&AN=8920398&h=l1r6pnlQ8Nst%2bAM28ruDSzOOgOHEZmaVWGVO2zu20aU%2fzQSJZpl%2bbU0mD36uKOHpifwBXAGne4KeQCXtfC263w%3d%3d&crl=c&resultNs=AdminWebAuth&resultLocal=ErrCrlNotAuth&crlhashurl=login.aspx%3fdirect%3dtrue%26profile%3dehost%26scope%3dsite%26authtype%3dcrawler%26jrnl%3d13624393%26AN%3d8920398
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003999301377882
  6. http://ard.bmj.com/content/49/5/316.short
  7. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01084.x/full
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_electrical_stimulation
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