As we get older, our bodies undergo many natural changes that impact mobility, muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular health, not the least of which is age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia.
Starting as early as age 30 in some cases, sarcopenia causes a decrease of up to 5 percent muscle mass per decade. While even the most physically fit individuals are not immune to sarcopenia’s various effects on the body, one can mitigate the degenerative process through physical activity.
Symptoms and Causes of Sarcopenia
- Decrease in the body’s ability to convert protein into energy
- Reduction in physical activity due to weakness or loss of stamina
- Lowered hormone levels
- Difficulty climbing stairs and keeping balance
- Muscle atrophy and hypoplasia (decrease in muscle size and number of muscle fibers)
The greater the reserve of muscle mass, the longer it will be before sarcopenia has the potential to impair functionality. Thus, it’s imperative to maintain a daily fitness and health regimen to help repair and rebuild your muscle mass. Here are some tips:
Intake Proper Nutrients
According to the National Council on Aging, as you age, your body requires less calories, but has other nutritional needs to take into account. A balanced diet for older adults should include a variety of lean protein (including plant based sources like soy products), anti-inflammatory foods like nuts, broccoli, spinach, and blueberries, and plenty of calcium from dairy products and their alternatives. It’s also key to take daily multivitamins, and to hydrate by drinking water throughout the day (The Mayo Clinic recommends 1 gallon for men and approximately 3/4 of a gallon for women).
You don’t have to overexert yourself by lifting heavy weights. It’s actually more beneficial to increase repetitions instead of weight, and perform an exercise until you feel fatigue. Lauren Lobert, a physical therapist and the owner of Apex Physical Therapy, told Aaptiv “…this means breaking away from the traditional three sets of ten model. Instead, think more about doing enough repetitions to get your muscles pretty tired, where you actually need to take a break before being able to do more.”
Take Time to Recover
Research suggests that an older person’s muscles tends to recover slower after a workout then their younger counterpart. This means that older adults run the risk of overtraining if they aren’t spacing out their workouts with rest days in between, or alternating their resistance and strength training with cardio workouts.
To better alleviate muscle strain, older adults can also engage in active recovery, which encompasses lower impact activities such as walking, yoga, stretching, and foam rolling.
Try Something New
Participating in different types of workouts or fitness classes is a good way to stay engaged with an active aging lifestyle. If you’re afraid to try something new or feel you don’t have the necessary resources available, there are a ton of different ways to get out there and get active- you could use a fitness coach app to guide you through different exercises, or look up free or low-cost classes offered by your local community or senior center. This is also a great way to meet like-minded people to socialize and work out with.
In short, proper nutrition and fitness are considered some of the best remedies available for degenerative muscle loss associated with age. Though the tips above are intended as a resource for those looking to pursue a healthier lifestyle, it’s always best to consult a doctor before starting any new fitness program.
May 30 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day. For the last 25 years, the organizers behind this special day have been encouraging older adults to participate in healthy activities. With over 100,000 individuals expected to participate this year, the focus on promoting wellness amongst the aging population is higher than ever. What you waiting for?
This article was developed by Aaptiv, providers of an audio-based fitness app with the goal to improve the lives of millions through fitness.