Author: Dr. Irfan Shaikh, Head Adult Nutrition, Scientific & Medical Affairs, Abbott’s Nutrition business
As you age, most people feel a noticeable shift in their stamina and overall energy levels. It’s considered an anomaly when you are younger but at a later stage of life it is dismissed as a by-product of ageing instead of a symptom that needs to be addressed. Starting at age 40, adults can lose up to 8 percent of their muscle mass per decade.[i] After 70 years old, that rate may double.
Healthy muscles are essential for your physical strength, organ function, skin integrity, immunity, and wound healing. Hence, we say muscles matter and are pivotal for enjoying and achieving all of life’s possibilities as you age.
Ways to build your muscle strength and elevate your energy levels:
Physical Activities: Sweat a little now for your body to thank you when you’re older. Adults must exercise for at least 30 minutes each day, and those above the age of 65, 150 minutes per week[ii], to keep their mobility and strength intact. Consult with your healthcare practitioner on what kind of exercises and fitness routine would be best suited for you.
Senior citizens who’ve had a sedentary lifestyle must begin with a few minutes of exercise daily and then gradually increase the intensity and duration.
Incorporate strength training as it is equivalent to 10-20 years of rejuvenation[iii].
Consider walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga to improve flexibility, strength, and balance.
In addition, an imbalance in nutrition, lack of exercises and a sedentary lifestyle also tend to accelerate the onset of ageing, which can further weaken your muscles.
The significance of fitness and nutrition
Research and reports on health and nutrition confirm that people who adopt a healthy diet and exercise regularly, stay healthy longer[iv] and have stronger muscles.
Adult Nutrition: Metabolism reduces as one ages and so does the need for energy. However, research conducted on nutrition requirement for adults indicates that even though the body’s ability to absorb and utilise the nutrients decreases as you age, the nutritional requirement increases.[v] This essentially means an older person may require to eat less, while ensuring optimum level of nutritional intake. Adequate nutrition and maintaining a balanced diet are great ways to support your muscle health. But no single food provides all the nutrients needed for good health, so it’s important to eat a variety of foods. The following are all essential nutrients that can improve muscle health:
Protein: A moderately high protein intake is required to maintain positive nitrogen balance. Protein-rich foods constitute a balanced diet that maximises energy and strength in older adults.
HMB: Several studies have demonstrated the benefits of beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) supplementation, alone or in combination with exercise for maintaining and restoring lean body mass, muscle strength and function in adults.[vi] HMB acts as a gateway to help keep your muscles in balance by slowing muscle breakdown or loss and is naturally produced in small amounts when your body breaks down leucine, an essential amino acid that you can get through eating protein foods. The new Ensure with HMB and 32 nutrients is a clinically-tested, science-based nutritional supplement specially designed to protect and strengthen muscles.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is one of the most important micronutrients since it regulates the level of calcium in the body. It optimises muscle performance, reducing the risk of falling due to imbalance in the older population. Daily exposure to sunlight is the primary and naturally available source of Vitamin D.
Vitamin E: Vitamin E is an antioxidant that plays a significant role in enhancing immunity and is present in various foods like nuts, seeds, and fruits. Consuming Vitamin E rich foods like Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Peanuts, Avocado, Cashews, and berries helps suffice the body’s need for this micronutrient.
Incorporating other micronutrients such as Omega-3-fatty acids, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Zinc, and Folate are essential for healthy aging of the body.
A nutritious diet coupled with fast metabolism have a significant effect on immunity. Regular practise of activities like resistance training, brisk-walking, or yoga helps maintain healthy bone density and muscle mass.
It’s never too late to begin.
Vital micronutrients and an active lifestyle help the human body produce hormones, enzymes, and other substances that are essential to stay fit and healthy. It enables your body to strengthen its natural defence system to prevent infections and reduce the risk of muscle loss. Be it spending the day at the park with your grandchild, training for a marathon with your friend circle or helping your family with grocery shopping or moving furniture around, you could continue to do all of these at any age or stage in your life, when you supplement your lifestyle with the right nutritional and fitness choices.