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All Over Strong: Muscle Health


senior fitness with meredith

Our muscle health is so important, but it is easy to overlook because there are so many other parts of the body that are discussed more. Sarcopenia, or the decline of skeletal muscle tissue with age, is one of the most dominant causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults. Sarcopenia is increasingly defined by both loss of muscle mass and loss of muscle function or strength. Symptoms can include weakness and loss of stamina which can interfere with physical activity. Reduced activity can further reduce muscle mass.

Reasons Muscle Matters:

  1. Muscles enhance your level of functional fitness -Your muscles play a key role in determining whether you can perform the activities of daily living whether they are at home, work, or play. These activities can be carrying groceries, getting out of a chair, pulling open a door, or lifting small children. Accordingly, the higher your level of muscular fitness, the more likely you will be able to perform the tasks in your life without undue fatigue or risk of injury. Strength training enhances the ability to successfully perform the daily tasks associated with independent living. Proper strength training can have an invaluable impact on helping you maintain your independence.
  2. Muscles promote bone health – Strength training not only makes your muscles stronger, it also makes your bones stronger. It helps maintain and increase muscle mass to preserve and strengthen the surrounding bone. Performed over an extended time, strength training has been found to increase bone density. Our strong bones help our skeletal system, which supports our structure and helps with our overall movement.
  3. Muscles help treat and prevent lower back pain – Proper strength training can help reduce the incidence and severity of lower back pain by strengthening your core, which are your abdominal and lower back muscles. By enhancing your postural stability, keeping these muscles strong will help prevent extra load from being placed on your spine.
  4. Muscles reduce your chances of sustaining both muscular and skeletal injuries – It is estimated that a significant number of various injuries that occur could be prevented through a higher level of muscular fitness. Stronger muscles help with overall strength, which help balance and everyday tasks.
  5. Muscles improve psychological well-being – Strength training has been found to have a positive impact on your level of anxiety, depression, and self-esteem. Strength training can have meaningful effects on the various facets of the mind-body connection.

Diet is also a very important part of muscle health. Making sure you are consuming enough lean protein in a well-balanced diet is key.

What can you do for your diet:

  1. Eat lean proteins – When we do strength training exercises, we are breaking apart our muscles. In order to build them back up, and make them stronger, the amino acids in protein sources grow and repair the muscle. Some examples of lean proteins are fish, poultry, lean meats, beans and legumes, eggs, and low-fat dairy products.
  2. Eat healthy carbohydrates – Carbohydrates have gotten a bad name in recent years. But carbs are our fuel source, and if we eliminate them from our diet, our body will use other sources to get energy, such as taking from our protein source leaving less for our muscles to use for development. Good examples of healthy carbohydrates are whole grains, starchy vegetables, and leafy greens.
  3. Stay properly hydrated – Especially if you are active, staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise is important. Make sure you are getting your fluids from water and proper, non-sugary liquids. Also, many fruits and vegetables, as well as liquid based soups are a good source of water.

So what is the right kind of training? That depends on your fitness and health goals. Preferably three sessions a week is ideal and the most important thing is intensity and progression–meaning increasing the amount of weight you are lifting once it stops feeling hard to lift.

Types of exercise to do:

  1. Weight-bearing -These activities are done on the feet, so the bones are supporting your weight. Examples include walking, dancing, low-impact cardio aerobics, and even gardening. These types of exercises slow mineral loss in the bones, especially in the legs, hips, and lower spine. Avoid high-impact movements, as they can be harmful and lead to fractures in weak bones.
  2. Strength training -These include exercises done using free weights/dumbbells, resistance bands, and body weight. The full body should be worked each week. Remember to give a day of rest after working the upper and/or lower body.
  3. Balance – Balance exercises help the muscles in the body work together to keep you stable. The core engages, ankles mobilize, and leg muscles work, all in conjunction to keep the body balanced and safe from a fall. Some good examples of balance exercises are heel raises, heel to toe walk, knee raises, and standing on one foot.

With just a few changes, you can make muscle health a priority…And keep yourself All Over Strong!

Stay happy, healthy, and positive always!