Staying healthy as you get older should obviously be a high priority for everyone. There are many things you can do to combat the negative effects of aging. Increasing age does not have to mean that your physical strength and ability will deteriorate. One of the most effective ways to combat aging is to get as much muscle mass as possible or maintain what you have. Keeping muscle is good for a wide range of different things. People that have more muscle are metabolically more healthy compared to those who don’t.
It’s been shown in studies that seniors that have more muscle mass live a longer life. This could be due to several different factors. The risk of falling dramatically decreases if you have better strength. Better strength also automatically leads to a better balance which helps decrease the risk of falling. Have a better baseline level of muscle mass also makes it faster for you to recover if something does happen.
Another common problem is blood sugar levels that are too high. When blood sugars are elevated for too long it causes a wide range of different side effects. This is becoming an increasingly common problem. Muscles and activity do a great job of picking up that blood sugar that’s floating around the system and put it to good use. Your muscle mass is kind of like a kitchen sink, the bigger it is the more you can handle. Without enough muscle mass your ability to use carbs and sugar dramatically decreases. This is also why resistance training and cardiovascular exercise has beneficial effects when managing type 2 diabetes. The amount of muscle mass you have also increased your ability to control the levels of fat in the bloodstream. This just like the blood glucose is very beneficial to keep within a healthy range.
Maintaining muscle mass is not about looking your best. It’s about maintaining functionality and being able to do the required tasks of daily life. It’s been shown in studies that people over the age of 60, 70, 80 and even 90 years old can still get stronger from strength training and maintain their strength by staying active.
Unfortunately muscle mass is a perishable commodity. Once you’ve acquired the strength it needs to be maintained for you to keep it on. It’s a very metabolically active tissue and if it does not end up being used the body will simply not sustain it. This can however easily be maintained by regular physical activity as well as an adequate protein intake in your diet. The required protein intake is not necessarily higher for older adults however, older individuals need a larger dose of protein to get the same response from the food. The required dose to stimulate the recovery process (protein synthesis) is lower for younger individuals. As you get older your protein synthesis threshold (rebuilding process) increases slightly. An older individual might need over 30 to 40 g in one meal to fully stimulate protein synthesis which is going to help you recover from exercise and maintain muscle. This is probably more protein than what most seniors would eat at a given meal. This higher dose will make sure you reach the threshold for stimulating protein synthesis. 4 ounces of an animal protein (beef, chicken, fish, etc) contains around 25 g of protein which means that an older individual should try to eat at least 6 to 8 ounces at a given meal in order to reach the desired dose. If someone struggles with consuming this at a given meal then protein rich supplements can be used. The branched chain amino acid Leucine should especially be considered to maintain muscle mass. Other protein-rich foods are eggs and dairy products.
In a study looking at the health of seniors in relation to whether they were overweight and underweight did not find a huge difference between the two of them. The most important factor in both cases was whether they had enough lean body mass (muscle and bone). So even though an individual is at a healthy weight, having very little muscle mass still poses a risk. Most people would probably suspect that being overweight would be worse than being underweight however there was no huge difference between these two groups. The biggest and most significant factor was the amount of muscle they had. The muscle was the biggest predictor of how healthfully they would age.
Your muscle mass can be maintained by staying as active as you currently are or maybe try to increase your current activity levels. Just by moving around, walking a lot, doing daily chores can be enough to maintain your current muscle mass which will keep you healthier. Starting to take up resistance training whether it’s machine based, free weight equipment, or perhaps a different modality like running, cycling, or swimming should be considered. All of these activities would be an effective way to maintain your muscle. Keeping and adding physical strength should be a high priority for everyone. This is not just for vanity reasons but due to the fact that it keeps you as able-bodied as possible for as long as possible.
Physical exercise improves type 2 diabetes – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28400914
Over 90-year-olds individuals get stronger from lifting – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2342214
Older individuals need more protein to stimulate muscle recovery – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25056502
Decrease the fall risk through resistance exercise – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2004.52200.x/full
B.S. Exercise Science from Lindenwood University
Started CrossFit in 2010.
Favorite thing about what I do:
To help and see people improve their fitness and confidence
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association
CF L1 Coach
CF L2 Coach
USAW Sports Performance Coach & club coach