5 Ways to Avoid Losing Muscle Mass

5 Ways to Avoid Losing Muscle Mass


Keeping muscle as we age.

A friend of mine just moved her elderly mother into a new living situation. Her mom had fallen, twice, and it was only a matter of time before she seriously hurt herself. Falls become more common as we age due to something called sarcopenia, which is a loss of muscle. Having less muscle means we are weaker and have less mobility and our balance gets off—hence, the falls. Sarcopenia is part of the aging process, and according to Harvard Medical School, after age 30, we lose 3 to 5 percent of muscle per decade. But there are actions we can take to mitigate this. For this week’s Healthy Habits, let’s look at ways we can preserve muscle mass.

Work out more. No one is particularly keen to hear that, I realize. But aim for up to five days a week, with resistance training two to three days of that. Resistance training can be weights, stretchy bands, your own body weight—the type is not as important as the resistance. The other days can focus on cardio and flexibility, such as walking, swimming and yoga.

Rest. Bodybuilders are very exact with scheduling their rest days to let their muscles rebuild, and as we age, this healing process takes longer. Give your muscles a good 72 hours at least between strength training sessions.

Boost protein. Harvard suggests upping protein to 1.3 grams per kilogram of body weight, divided among meals through the day. Healthy choices include beans, Greek yogurt, lean chicken and salmon, edamame, or a scoop of whey protein powder in a smoothie.

Watch vitamin D levels. Not getting enough vitamin D is associated with increased fat infiltration into muscle. Proper amounts, which your doctor can test for, means your body has enough for lean muscle mass and strength.

Keep inflammation at bay. While weight lifting and nutrition have been the classic ways of dealing with muscle mass, what happens on a cellular level is gaining interest among gerontologists, who are finding that inflammation accelerates muscle loss. Reducing inflammation overall, through stress beating techniques such as meditation, and eating antioxidant-rich foods, may help preserve muscle as we age.

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