Body mass index (BMI) has long been used to determine a person’s overall fitness. Physicians and health professionals compare a person’s weight to their height to calculate a body fat score. But this method has more than a few critics. The most obvious criticism is that that BMI fails to differentiate between muscle and fat.

This means a very fit person with considerable muscle mass might end up with a high BMI score or that a thin person with little muscle mass might be determined to be fit when they aren’t.

Because newer research revealed just how important muscle mass is to longer life, experts are re-thinking BMI.

A UCLA study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that people with higher amounts of muscle mass are at decreased risk for metabolic syndrome. This in turn lowers a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

Tips for Pumping Up Muscle Mass during Retirement Years

Age-related muscle loss is called Sarcopenia. The condition is common in older adults who might not be as active as they were in younger years. Doctors liken it to Osteoporosis of the muscles. It can begin as early as age 30.

The good news is there are steps you and your senior loved one can take to improve muscle mass.

  • Healthy Exercise: Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to talk about which senior-friendly forms of exercise they recommend. It might help to research your options before the appointment so you have an idea of some that interest you. The goal should be to create a program that combines range of motion, flexibility, cardio, and strength training. A few types to consider are Chair Yoga, water aerobics, Pilates, bike riding, walking and modified weight training.
  • Focus on Nutrition: Many people are unaware of the role nutrition plays in building muscle mass. Diet is just as important as exercise when it comes to healthy muscles. The Harvard Medical School recommends older adults consume 7 grams of protein each day for every 20 pounds of body weight.
  • Get Moving: Sitting too much can lead to a loss of muscle mass. And a sedentary lifestyle can’t be overcome by an increased amount of exercise. Researchers now call sitting the “new smoking” because it is so dangerous for your long-term health. Stand when you talk on the phone instead of sitting. Take frequent breaks to move around if you are at your computer all day. Remember that it is important not just to exercise each day, but to keep moving.

Online Fitness Programs for Seniors

Several organizations have online fitness programs for seniors that make it easier to incorporate exercise and good nutrition in to your everyday life:

  • AARP Healthy Living: AARP has a wide range of resources designed to help older adults live healthier lives. You can find everything from reviews on fitness products to videos on weight training for seniors.
  • Go4Life: The National Institute on Aging created this free senior fitness program. It combines online resources like guides and checklists with DVDs you can order at no cost.  

Visit a Heritage Senior Community Near You

Wellness is an important part of what we do at the Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan. We invite you to schedule a tour at your convenience to learn how good nutrition, life enrichment and physical activity are a part of our residents’ everyday lives.