A decline in muscle mass is a part of aging, but doing everything possible to slow that decline should be near the top of everyone’s priority list. Losing muscle mass and strength could put a serious damper on the ability to move. Older adults who have trouble moving and keeping their balance could be at higher increase of falling. This is one of the main reasons why it’s so important to maintain your muscle as you age. A third of older adults fall annually. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injuries, both fatal and nonfatal, among older adults.
So, what is the secret to at least holding on to the muscle you have? Older adults should focus on consuming enough calories and protein as well as getting in enough physical activity to help maintain their muscle.
With age, calorie needs lessen, yet the need for most nutrients remains relatively steady. As a result, older adults should try eating nutrient-dense foods that provide the necessary nutrients within the appropriate calorie range.
Staying active, especially with muscle-strengthening activities, also is important for preserving and building muscle.
Any physical activity is better than none, but for best results, in addition to regular aerobic activity, older adults should strive for incorporating moderate to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activities involving all major muscle groups two or more days a week.
If you’re not able to meet the exercise guideline, do as much as you can and perhaps set a goal to gradually work up to the recommendation. If you’re at risk for falling, especially focus on doing exercises that maintain or improve your balance.
For more information on age-related changes in muscles, contact the county Extension office and download the free OSU Fact Sheet T-3211, “Journey through Health: Muscles.”