Muscle mass deteriorates with age. As we lose mass we also lose some of our former strength and functionality. Some muscle loss is normal and unavoidable. Still, there are things we can do to minimize the kinds of muscle loss that lead to frailty and reduced independence.
What happens to muscle as we age
Several factors contribute to muscle loss. For example, hormonal changes have an impact. Also, there are more mitochondria in younger muscle. As mitochondria decline fat creeps in because of reduced metabolism and energy levels. More fat means more age related decline and reduced insulin sensitivity. That’s a big deal because you will be less able to break down fat. The result is that middle age spread we all wish would go away.
Ways to slow muscle loss
Sarcopenia or age related muscle loss begins after around age 30. If you are inactive you can expect to lose 3 to 5 % of your muscle mass per subsequent decade. You will experience less muscle loss if you are physically active. What helps?
Strength training can help you build lean muscle mass and burn fat. Practiced regularly you can also expect improved quality of life. Strength or weight training helps you maintain balance and muscle power as you age, which means greater mobility and reduced risk of fall or fracture. As a bonus if you have been diagnosed with arthritis, are managing depression or diabetes, strength training can help you feel better. Head to the gym or get a set of dumbbells and get started at home. Don’t have any equipment or time for the gym? Try bodyweight training. Exercises include: squats, planks, push-ups, triceps dips, and lunges.
Strength training will help you burn fat. Aerobic exercise can also lend a hand with whittling that spare tire. Also called cardio exercise, aerobic exercise is basically anything that gets your heart rate up. So go ahead and have fun while getting fit. Burning fat doesn’t have to be painful or boring – dance, run, bike, swim, hike, Zumba or play ball. Exercise stimulates the release of hormones that promote muscle growth.
Supplements that can help build more muscle
Omega 3 fatty acids
No matter how old you are it isn’t too late to build more muscle mass. You may not look like you did in your thirties but you can certainly maintain a high level of strength and functionality. Remember the old saying, use it or lose it? It is true. Move more, strength train and consume protein with every meal and snack to reduce muscle loss and boost your quality of life as you age.