It’s Never Too Late to Regain Muscle

September is the beginning of a new year in many cultures as well as classrooms around the world; it makes sense that people of all ages view this changing of the seasons as an ideal time to start making healthier choices.  Older adults in particular can benefit from regular exercise and especially strength training to help prevent muscle loss and a decline in physical function.

During the month of September, the National Institute on Aging celebrates Go4Life, a program designed to help older adults stay more active, preserve mobility and function and reduce the risk for falls.  Most people participate in just one of the four types of exercise but there are different benefits to be gained by mixing up your exercise routine to include aerobic or endurance exercise, strength training as well as balance and flexibility activities. 

According to a recent New York Times report, many people over the age of 50 have sarcopenia, a decline in skeletal muscle associated with age.  It can start to affect adults beginning in their 40s and without regular strength training, sarcopenia can lead to a decline in physical function and eventually a loss of independence for older adults.  Sarcopenia is also linked with worsening insulin resistance, fatigue, falls and death.

A sedentary lifestyle isn’t the only contributing factor to muscle loss; hormonal changes, chronic health problems, poor nutrition and inflammation also speed sarcopenia in older age.  The good news is that no matter your age or even if you have never done strength training exercises before, it’s never to late to start rebuilding muscle and improving physical function.  Remember to talk with your doctor before starting any new exercise program and begin slowly, gradually increasing intensity and duration.  Strength training will not only help prevent the loss of muscle mass, weight-bearing exercise may also improve bone density.  And staying strong and fit will reduce the risk for falls in older age.

A healthy diet is also important in maintaining muscle mass.  Protein-rich foods that contain the amino acid leucine, like chicken, beef, lamb, nuts, eggs, fish and dairy products help the body add and preserve muscle mass.  The current recommended daily allowance for protein for an adult is about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight or 2.3 ounces for a 180-pound adult.  But newer research indicates that adults over the age of 65 may need more protein to help prevent sarcopenia.

For more exercise tips and workout videos, visit the Go4Life website here.