Post date: 8/13/2023
While most people reach their physical peak during their 20s and 30s, there’s plenty that older adults can do to stay strong. If you’ve lost muscle due to an inactive lifestyle, there’s a very good chance you can gain it back.
That’s good news, since higher muscle mass is associated with lower mortality, lower risk of diabetes and lower incidence of disability in seniors. To keep your muscles healthy and strong, keep the following eight tips in mind.
A healthy diet rich in lean protein is a mainstay for athletes who want to perform their best, and research shows that it’s just as important for aging adults.
Protein is composed of amino acids, the building blocks your body uses to grow and repair muscle tissue. If you’re engaging in even moderate exercise a few times per week, you still need plenty of protein to perform, recover and retain the muscle you already have. The best protein sources include lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products and nuts and legumes.
Even with a great diet, it can be difficult to consume all of the muscle-sparing nutrients you need to stay energized. For instance, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to have muscle-sparing effects in seniors, but it can be tough to get enough of this nutrient if you don’t regularly consume wild-caught, fatty fish such as salmon. The same is true for vitamin D, a nutrient your body synthesizes during sun exposure. Overall, fish oil, a vitamin D supplement and a multivitamin are great additions to a varied diet.
According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise is the most powerful way to stave off muscle loss in aging and even disabled populations. Weight training and other resistance exercises, in particular, are excellent ways to maintain strength and muscle mass — and they can even positively impact your cardiovascular system.
Aside from a formal exercise program, an overall active lifestyle will also keep you fit and strong. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to cause greater age-related muscle atrophy, and by getting up, moving and using your muscles, it can slow or stop the decline.
Bone health and muscle health go hand-in-hand, and much like muscles, your bones respond to weight-bearing exercise by becoming denser and stronger. Likewise, if your bones deteriorate and weaken, you won’t be able to perform the exercises necessary to retain your muscle mass.
To keep your bones healthy, get plenty of exercise, avoid smoking and consume a diet rich in calcium and potassium.
Aside from diet and exercise, your muscle mass (and bone mass) are heavily regulated by your hormone levels. Estrogen, testosterone and thyroid hormones all play a role, and it’s important that you keep these hormones in balance as you age. Dietary supplements can only go so far in influencing your hormone levels, however, so it’s recommended that you consult your doctor to determine your specific needs.
Acute inflammation is your body’s normal response to hard exercise and other forms of stress. Chronic inflammation, however, is painful and potentially damaging to muscle tissue. Fortunately, you may be able to stave off inflammation with certain anti-inflammatory foods, including leafy green vegetables, olive oil, nuts and berries. It also helps to avoid pro-inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, trans fats and processed grains.
Last but certainly not least, reducing your alcohol consumption can have a major impact on your strength and longevity. Alcohol tends to cause an inflammatory response, and can make it more difficult for your body to digest and absorb nutrients from food. Even a few drinks can cause dehydration if you’re not vigilant about drinking enough water, which can lead to muscle pains and cramps.
Overall, by taking a holistic approach to your health, you can ensure your muscles remain strong and powerful as you age.
Looking for more tips on how you can make the most of your retired years? Check out our free guide, Aging in Place: A Popular Trend for a New Generation of Seniors