How to stay fit as you age – Forbes Health

Maintaining muscle strength as we age requires a multi-faceted approach. While diet and exercise take center stage, other healthy habits, such as maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking, play a crucial role.

exercise

Exercise is essential throughout life but becomes especially important as we age because it protects us from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and even some cancers. It also helps our mental health and ability to carry out daily activities.

If you’re concerned about building or maintaining muscle, experts point to resistance training (eg, lifting weights or using resistance bands) as the best form of exercise for those purposes.

“Resistance training challenges the muscles in a way that promotes better communication with the nervous system first and then [muscle] growth,” says LeBrasseur. “This is called hypertrophy. Even as we age, resistance training can have significant benefits for skeletal muscle mass and, more importantly, skeletal muscle strength.”

In a recent review of 14 studies involving more than 500 healthy adults over the age of 65, resistance training was shown to be an effective way to improve muscle strength and performance in older adults with sarcopenia.

“In general, intensity (how much weight, how many reps, how many sets, how much rest in between), duration (how long the session lasts), and frequency (how many days per week) are the key variables and should be adjusted for a person’s current level of fitness,” says LeBrasseur. He also notes that high-intensity resistance is known to increase leg strength and muscle size — and it’s never too late to start.

However, that doesn’t mean you should give up your brisk walks or weekly tennis games for weightlifting at the gym.

“Aerobic exercise is also important,” says Thomas Buford, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and director of the Center for Exercise Medicine. “It’s important for oxygen utilization, vascular health, and the health of the mitochondria (structures inside cells that convert energy from food into usable energy for the cells),” he says. “I would recommend people to be active for 10-30 minutes four to five times a week to get their heart rate up and aim for strength training two to three days a week.”

limit alcohol

Studies show that heavy drinkers tend to have lower muscle strength and more muscle wasting than people who don’t drink heavily. These results hold true even after accounting for factors such as age, gender, and body mass index (BMI). Researchers say this may be because alcohol can interfere with protein synthesis (a biological process that helps build muscle). Alcohol consumption can also be linked to a poor diet and malnutrition, both of which can contribute to the loss of muscle mass and strength.

stop smoking

How smoking affects muscles is difficult to determine, says Dr. Buford, as smoking is often associated with other unhealthy habits, such as a poor diet or a sedentary lifestyle. Smoking can also affect the amount of oxygen that muscles receive, causing them to weaken. One study shows that men who smoked 100 grams of tobacco per week reduced their knee muscle strength by nearly 3%, while women saw a 5% reduction.

Eat a balanced diet with lots of protein

Protein is one of the building blocks of muscle, and not getting enough protein can lead to a loss of muscle mass. Research also shows that people who eat high amounts of protein (found in lean meats, fish, low-fat dairy, eggs, legumes and nuts) perform better on tests measuring grip strength and gait than people with lower protein intakes.

A study of nearly 3,000 people found that those who ate large amounts of protein (median was 92.2 grams of protein per day) had a 30% lower risk of functional integrity and frailty than those who ate less protein took (median was 64.4 grams). per day).

While protein is important, so are other healthy nutrients like vitamin D and B vitamins. In fact, some studies suggest that vitamin D — found in fatty fish and fortified foods like milk — may help muscle recovery, and deficiencies in certain B vitamins — found in fortified whole grains, eggs, meat, and other foods — can lead to muscle loss.

“I don’t think there’s one macronutrient that you should focus on,” says Kristina G. Balangue, MD, a geriatrician and clinical assistant professor in the Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Care at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix. Your diet will depend on your weight, health goals, and any disease factors you may have, she adds. “For example, someone who has high blood pressure may need to eat a diet low in salt and fat. As you increase your workout, you may need more carbohydrates [for energy]. You want to focus on a diet that maintains the integrity of your health.”

dr Balangue also recommends seeing your doctor for a general blood test to see if you’re deficient in any of the essential nutrients and consulting with a nutritionist who can offer advice on a specific diet to build muscle.

Maintain a healthy weight

In a recent study, 54.3% of study participants who were obese suffered from sarcopenia, compared to 35% of those who were overweight and about 25% of those of normal weight. This may be because obesity causes inflammation throughout the body and can contribute to muscle wasting and the onset of sarcopenia.

Experts also point out that obesity increases the likelihood that you have fatty tissue in and around your muscles, which can affect muscle contraction and overall physical function.

Get seven to eight hours of sleep a night

A lack of sleep can affect protein synthesis, or how cells make protein. In addition, without adequate sleep, levels of muscle-building testosterone in the body fall while cortisol (the stress hormone) rises. These imbalances can lead to weak muscles and muscle wasting.

A study examining sleep duration and falls in older adults found that participants who slept fewer than seven hours a night had a nearly four times greater risk of falling than those who slept seven to eight hours a night. Muscle mass also decreased by almost 7% in participants who slept less than seven hours a night.

“When you exercise, you’re doing micro-damage to your muscles,” says Burford. “When you sleep, your body goes into repair mode. So it’s important to focus on getting good sleep to keep the muscles.”

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