As we age, a whole heap of changes occur in our bodies and muscle loss is one of them. The way our muscles are structured and the types of muscle cells change. This can lead to muscle loss which starts to limit mobility, participation in activities and can increase the risk of falls.
Age related decline of the muscles can start as early as 40 if you are inactive – losing 8% of muscle mass each decade. This accelerates as we hit our 70’s.
Causes of Muscle Loss
- Decrease in the body’s ability to convert protein into energy
- Reduction in physical activity due to weakness or loss of stamina
- Lowered hormone levels
Symptoms of Muscle Loss
- Difficulty climbing stairs
- Increasingly poor balance
- Muscle atrophy – shrinking in size
- hypoplasia – decrease in muscle size and number of muscle fibres.
The good news is that the more muscle reserve you have, the better you will be. No one can escape the effects of ageing on the muscles but we can slow its onset will some really simple steps… be active and build muscle!
Here’s a couple of tips for keeping your muscles in tip top form:
You don’t have to overexert yourself by lifting heavy weights. It’s actually more beneficial to increase repetitions instead of weight, and perform an exercise until you feel fatigue. Catie Noble, Physiotherapist and CEO of Reviva suggests that we move away from the traditional sets of 5 or 10. She states that “more repetitions are the key – you need to work the muscle until its really tired to get the gains”.
According to the National Council on Aging, as you age, your body requires less calories, but has other nutritional needs to take into account. A balanced diet for older adults should include a variety of lean protein (including plant based sources like soy products), anti-inflammatory foods like nuts, broccoli, spinach, and blueberries, and plenty of calcium from dairy products and their alternatives. It’s also key to stay hydrated by drinking 6-8 cups of water throughout the day.
Take Time to Recover
Research suggests that an older person’s muscles tends to recover slower after a workout then their younger counterpart. This means that older adults run the risk of overtraining if they aren’t spacing out their workouts with rest days in between, or alternating their resistance and strength training with cardio workouts.
Active recovery days between harder workouts are a great way of maintaining activity levels whilst letting the body recover. Low impact activities like walking, yoga and light stretching are a great way to be active through the recovery phase.
Try Something New
Participating in different types of workouts or fitness classes is a good way to stay engaged with an active ageing lifestyle. If you’re afraid to try something new or feel you don’t have the necessary resources available, have a look at the Reviva programmes that need no equipment and can be done anywhere – your lounge, the beach or the campervan! These physio designed programmes can help you get active in your own home whilst you investigate classes or activities locally. Local classes or groups are also a great way to meet like-minded people to socialise and work out with.
In short, proper nutrition and fitness are considered some of the best remedies available for degenerative muscle loss associated with age. Though the tips above are intended as a resource for those looking to pursue a healthier lifestyle, it’s always best to consult a doctor before starting any new fitness programme.