As we age, our bodies naturally go through changes that can lead to a loss of muscle mass. This can make it challenging to stay mobile and active, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By implementing a few simple changes to your lifestyle, you can maintain your muscle mass as you grow older and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.
In this blog post, we’ll explore why maintaining muscle is so important, what happens to our muscles as we age, and 10 ways you can maintain your muscles and stay strong and healthy as a senior.
Why Maintaining Muscle is Important
Muscle isn’t just about looks or being able to lift heavy weights. Our muscles are essential for movement, balance, and overall health. Maintaining muscle mass is critical for seniors as it can help prevent falls and injuries, improve balance and mobility, and increase overall strength and endurance.
Additionally, maintaining muscle mass can help prevent chronic diseases such as osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease, which are all more prevalent as we age.
What Happens to Muscle as You Age
As we age, our bodies go through several changes that can contribute to muscle loss. First, our bodies naturally produce less testosterone and human growth hormone, which are essential for building and maintaining muscle mass. Additionally, our activity levels tend to decline as we age, which can lead to muscle atrophy or loss.
Finally, poor nutrition and chronic illnesses can also contribute to the loss of muscle mass as we grow older.
10 Ways to Maintain Muscles
1. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is a proven way to maintain muscle mass and strength well into your senior years. Whether it's weightlifting, resistance training, or even just brisk walking, staying physically active helps to stimulate muscle growth and prevent muscle loss. Additionally, exercise can help improve balance, decrease the risk of falls, and boost overall energy levels. So don't let age be an excuse to give up on fitness. Make sure to prioritize regular exercise in your senior years and enjoy the many benefits it brings. Aim for a mix of strength training and cardio exercises each week.
2. Increase Your Protein Intake
Maintaining muscle as we age can be a challenge, but increasing our protein intake can make a big difference. By consuming more protein, we can help our bodies rebuild and repair muscle tissue. This doesn't mean we have to start eating steak for every meal--there are plenty of tasty and healthy protein sources out there, such as fish, chicken, beans, and lentils. One easy way to increase our protein intake is by incorporating protein-rich snacks into our daily routine, such as Greek yogurt or protein bars. By making small changes to our diet and focusing on protein, we can maintain our muscle mass and prevent age-related muscle loss. Aim for around 1-1.5g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.
3. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is crucial in ensuring that our muscles remain at their fullest potential. Water makes up roughly 75% of muscle tissue, and as we age, our bodies lose the ability to retain water as efficiently as they once did. This increases the risk of dehydration, which can have detrimental effects on muscle health, including decreased strength and tone. Seniors should aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day to keep muscles functioning at optimal levels.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep your muscles strong and healthy. When we sleep, our bodies produce growth hormones that help repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Additionally, a lack of sleep can lead to increased inflammation and stress, which can make it harder for our bodies to build and maintain muscle. To ensure you're getting the best sleep possible, try to establish a regular sleep routine and create a relaxing sleep environment. Consider investing in a comfortable mattress and pillow and avoid electronics and other distractions in your bedroom. By prioritizing your sleep, you'll be doing your muscles a favor and setting yourself up for a healthier, more active lifestyle as a senior.
5. Reduce Stress
Excess stress can cause muscle tension, making it difficult for seniors to engage in physical activities. Stress can also lead to poor eating habits and lack of sleep, which ultimately affects muscle health. Seniors should manage their stress levels by incorporating relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, getting a good night's sleep, and spending time outdoors. Even small changes, such as taking deep breaths, can make a significant difference in reducing stress and improving muscle health.
6. Avoid Smoking
Smoking not only damages our lungs and cardiovascular system, but it also can directly impact our ability to build and maintain muscle. Studies have shown that smoking contributes to muscle loss and weakened muscle function in older adults, making it even more important to quit or never start smoking in the first place.
7. Focus on Form
While regular exercise can play a key role in preserving muscle, it's crucial to focus on good form to avoid injury and maximize results. Seniors should prioritize exercises that target all major muscle groups, including the chest, back, legs, and abdominal muscles. By using proper form when doing exercises such as squats, lunges, pushups, and resistance band workouts, seniors can build strength while minimizing the risk of injury. In addition, incorporating stretching and balance exercises into your routine can help maintain mobility and reduce the risk of falls.
8. Increase Your Weight Gradually
Be patient and do not rush as adding weights quickly can cause injuries. Taking it slow will ensure that your body is adapting to the weight gradually. You can start with light weights and increase the load gradually every week. Keep track of your progress and adjust accordingly. With increased weight over time, you will be able to maintain your muscle mass and lead a healthy lifestyle. Start slowly and see the gains in the end.
9. Prioritize Compound Exercises
For those who want to maintain muscle mass as they age, compound exercises should be at the top of the exercise list. Unlike isolation exercises that only focus on one muscle group, compound exercises work multiple muscle groups at the same time. This means that seniors can reap the benefits of a full-body workout in a shorter amount of time without exhausting themselves. Exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts allow seniors to build and preserve strength in their legs and hips which are crucial for maintaining balance and preventing falls.
Compound exercises, such as squats, lunges, and bench presses, work multiple muscle groups at once and are more effective for building muscle mass.
10. Don’t Overdo It
As a senior, it’s essential to listen to your body and not overdo it when exercising. Take breaks when necessary and consult with a doctor or trainer if you experience pain or discomfort.
Parkwood Heights Is Here to Support Your Active Living Lifestyle
Joining the community of Parkwood Heights can support you in your active living lifestyle now and into the future. Residents can pursue their health and wellness goals with our fitness center, wellness center, walking paths, therapeutic spa, and gardens. Learn more about all our 122 acre campus has to offer by contacting us today!