Exercise has long been promoted as a necessity for living a long and healthy life. While many of us associate that with aerobic-style fitness programs, building and maintaining muscles is vital, too. Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, accelerates in your sixties and seventies. Surprisingly, however, it begins when people are in their thirties.
Adults living a sedentary life can experience a decline in muscle loss by as much as 3 to 5 percent each decade after the age of 30. Even people who are physically active may see a decline in muscle mass and strength without specific interventions. Preventing muscle loss is a critical part of the aging process for a variety of reasons.
Most notably, muscle mass is essential for maintaining core strength and preventing falls. That’s critical because falls are a leading cause of injury and disability in people over the age of 65. Research also shows that greater muscle mass can lower the risk for metabolic syndrome, which is linked to heart disease.
If you are an older adult or the adult child of one, here are some senior-friendly steps you can take to keep your muscles strong.
Tips to Maintain and Build Muscle Mass
- Start walking: While it might not seem like it, walking is good for your muscles. It helps with both muscle strength and muscle endurance. Since it doesn’t require any special equipment beyond a good pair of sneakers, walking is a budget-friendly form of exercise that can be performed anywhere.
- Try yoga or Pilates: Both yoga and Pilates are gentle forms of exercise that build core strength. If the idea of getting down on the floor to practice either of these isn’t appealing, try doing either one from a seated position. YouTube has free videos you can follow, like this 15-minute seated Pilates workout for seniors or this chair yoga demonstration.
- Incorporate resistance training: Regular workouts that focus on muscle strength are essential. Many seniors have had success with resistance band exercises. If you don’t belong to a fitness center that offers a class, this total body resistance band workout from SilverSneakers may be useful.
- Eat a healthy diet: Nutrition also plays an essential role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Try to incorporate lean proteins, such as poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, and beans, into your meal planning. Hydration is also important for healthy muscles. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day is the easiest way to meet your body’s need for hydration. If you aren’t much of a water drinker, foods with a high water content, like leafy greens, berries, celery, melons, and peppers, are helpful, too.
- Avoid sitting too much: Research shows a sedentary lifestyle can be nearly as dangerous for an older adult as smoking. It is linked to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also lead to a loss of muscle mass and strength. By getting up and moving around frequently throughout the day, you can help prevent that.
As is true of starting any new exercise, it’s best to discuss it with your primary care physician before getting started.
Wellness Programs Are a Part of Daily Life at Heritage
Because we know how important exercise is to our residents, we offer a variety of daily fitness programs. From stretching classes to walking clubs, we make it easier to live an active lifestyle. Call a Heritage community near you to learn more today!