Before And After Effects Of KAATSU Among The Elderly

For who? Baby Boomers, retirees, elderly, medical researchers
For what? Strength, stamina, functional movement, mobility, flexibility, recovery

At the Harvard Medical School in Boston on November 5th 2014, cardiologist Toshiaki Nakajima, M.D., Ph.D., formerly of the University of Tokyo Hospital [shown on left with KAATSU inventor Professor Sir Dr. Yoshiaki Sato, M.D., Ph.D.), presented a study entitled Skeletal Muscle Hypertrophy inducted by KAATSU Rehabilitation and Prevention of Sarcopenia.

Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass and is a major problem among older individuals. Among both males and females, muscle strength decreases with age and muscle volume quickly decreases (0.45 kg per year) as individuals age past 50 years old. That is, fast twitch muscle fiber decreases on average to 50% by the age of 80 years.

To prevent it, physicians and physiologists understand that high-intensity resistance exercise (e.g., weight training or body weight exercises) is required. But this type of training is usually not possible – or desired – by the elderly.

But with KAATSU, individuals up to the age of 104 [see below and here] can perform low-load or no-load, non-impact exercise with KAATSU equipment following the KAATSU Cycle modality to induce muscle hypertrophy and strengthen muscle even with short-term, low-intensity exercise. With the KAATSU Air Bands or KAATSU Aqua Bands, the KAATSU no-load, non-impact exercise physiologically equals high-intensity, high-load training. In both cases (KAATSU and high-intensity, high-load training) the muscle and brain are stimulated to induce muscle hypertrophy and strength including fast twitch muscle fibers.

Dr. Nakajima tested 19 healthy elderly subjects with a mean age of 71 years [one 84-year-old subject is shown on left]. There were 10 individuals in the control group and 9 individuals in the experimental (KAATSU) group. The individuals did knee extensions and leg press exercises twice per week (Mondays and Thursdays) for 12 weeks. The SKU (Standard KAATSU Unit) pressure on the KAATSU leg bands ranged from 120-250 SKU.

Dr. Nakajima reported the significant increase in cross sectional area of thigh with MRI in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports (2014 Oct;24(5):799-806). He also explained how the increase in muscle strength and mass leads to improvement of life function tests like getting up and out of a chair or bed.

Similar results were realized in the arms (biceps and triceps) among the group of elderly patients [see before-and-after effects of a 71-year-old subject on left].

He explains the process leading up to muscle hypertrophy due to traditional resistance training.

Typically, an individual needs to perform at least 65% of 1RM to create mechanical stress, metabolic stress, Hormone (cathecholamine) secretion, Growth factor, Cytokin (IL-6), nerve factor, local circulation, hypoxia and cell swelling that leads to adaptation and an increase in protein synthesis and decrease in protein degradation.

In contrast, KAATSU leads to several mechanisms that cause KAATSU’s hypertrophic effects: recruitment of fast twitch muscle fibers, increase in Growth Hormone and IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor), amino acid uptake, increase in protein synthesis and a decrease in myostatin.

He described the process. “Maintenance of skeletal muscle mass is dependent on the relationship of muscle protein balance – protein synthesis and breakdown. A negative protein balance induces muscle atrophy, whereas a positive balance induces muscle hypertrophy.

After muscle disuse, during long-term bed rest and simulated models of no-bearing activity, severe skeletal muscle atrophy develops due to altered protein metabolism leading to decreased muscle contractile protein content.

To prevent this, resistance exercise, an established and potent stimulus for enhancing muscle protein synthesis and subsequent muscle hypertrophy, is traditionally used.

Conversely, skeletal muscle is a plastic organ that adapts its mass to the different conditions by affecting pathways that regulate protein and cellular turnover. Repetitive KAATSU appears to be a novel stimulus for skeletal muscle to induce a net positive protein balance and prevent atrophy especially with patients with orthopedic diseases or injuries or those with disuse syndrome, sarcopenia and cachexia (weakness and wasting of the body due to severe chronic illness).”

To view an example of the before-and-after effects of KAATSU on a 104-year-old female, visit here.