Aging is inevitable, and while many people complain about it, when you really think about it, getting older is better than the alternative.
As life expectancy goes up due to advances in medical science, so do age related conditions – and this can include a decrease in lean muscle mass.
Maintaining muscle mass, however, can be very important as we reach our senior years.
Today we’ll have a look at why we lose muscle, the importance of maintaining muscle mass as we get older, and two of the most important things you can do to help preserve and build muscle.
Why Do We Lose Muscle?
From the age of thirty, onwards most people will experience a muscle loss of three to five percent loss per decade.
Factors contributing to muscle loss can include:
- Sarcopenia, a disease which causes the loss of muscle mass as you age
- Other chronic diseases
- Natural cell death
- Gaining fat instead of muscle
- Lower activity levels as you age
- Loss of testosterone
Unfortunately, the loss of muscle mass can have unintended health impacts which you likely haven’t thought of.
Let’s look now at…
Reasons To Maintain Your Muscle Mass
When you think of muscle, what comes to mind?
Being able to carry the groceries or lift up your grandchild?
These are important, but there are some other side effects of maintaining your lean muscle mass which you likely haven’t thought of.
Some of these include…
Muscle Mass Reduces The Risks Of Falls And Fractures
Loss of muscle mass, especially in the legs, can lead to instability, decreased balance, and then a higher risk of falls, which can lead to fractures.
People with lower muscle mass are more likely to experience a fall leading to a broken bone, of the leg, arm, hip, or collarbone.
Muscle Offers Protection Against Diabetes
Maintaining your lean muscle mass can protect against developing diabetes and insulin resistance.
This is because your muscles help remove glucose from the blood, in order to lower blood sugar levels.
If the insulin secreted by the body after you eat isn’t able to stimulate the uptake of glucose to muscles from the bloodstream, this is the first sign of insulin resistance and the first step towards developing diabetes.
Lean Muscle May Help You Recover From Disease
When your body is healing from an illness, it needs protein to help it heal.
If you aren’t getting enough protein from your diet, then you’ll start to draw it from your muscles to help with the recovery process.
Having Muscle Keeps Bones Healthy
Doing exercises to help improve your muscle mass can also have a positive effect on the health of your bones.
When you do resistance training, it not only puts stress on your muscles causing them to need to repair themselves, which drives muscle growth, it also exerts a force on your bones, leading to your body creating more bone tissue and strengthening them in the process.
This is important because strong bones can help guard against the development of osteoporosis and other bone diseases.
Muscle Helps To Combat Obesity
Even when you’re not working out, your muscles are burning energy and helping to increase your basal metabolic rate, which is related to how many calories your body burns when your body is at rest.
Thus, the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn – even when you’re sitting at the computer or watching your favourite TV show.
How To Preserve Muscle Mass?
So you know muscle is important, you might be asking how to maintain it.
Let’s look at the two key factors for building and preserving muscle.
Using your muscles is one of the best ways to help preserve the muscles you have, and start to build new ones.
If you’re not used to exercising on a regular basis, start small with a walk around the block or even just in the yard.
Weight bearing exercise like walking is easy, free, and doesn’t require any special equipment. In short, just about anyone can start doing it.
If walking is getting a bit boring, try out a virtual dance class, or bring along your favourite audiobook or podcast to keep you company.
You will also want to add weight training components to your program.
This may sound intimidating, but don’t fear – no one is suggesting you need to start powerlifting super heavy barbells to start seeing results.
There are countless bodyweight exercises you can incorporate into your routine which don’t require any special equipment – think planks, push-ups, lunges, and squats to start out with.
What You Eat Matters
In order for your body to build muscle mass, you need to pay attention to what you’re feeding it.
If you’ve been trying to lose weight, and are eating a calorie restrictive diet, you’ll want to ensure you’re getting enough protein for your body to meet its needs.
A nutritionist can help you determine the right balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates your body needs to build and repair tissue.
The Bottom Line
Losing muscle mass as you age may seem inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be.
Incorporating load bearing exercises like walking, simple bodyweight strength exercises, and ensuring your diet is giving you all of the protein and other nutrients you need can help protect against disease, falls, and fractures.