The times we live in are truly interesting. Take, for example, our attitude towards health and healthy living. Modern lifestyles are anything but healthy. Busy schedules don’t leave much time for home cooking, and long aisles of ready-to-eat processed foods at the supermarket promise a delicious dinner within two minutes. Our increasing reliance on technology makes us more and more sedentary—truly gloomy.
But therein lies the paradox. There are so many different healthy lifestyle movements springing up to offset the woes of modern living—clean eating, detox juicing, and walk-to-work initiatives are just a few notable examples.
Another one is the incredibly popular yoga. Go to any plaza or walk down a major street and you will most likely come across a yoga studio. All demographics are trying out this ancient practice. You’ve probably heard about the many different benefits of yoga for your body and your mind—flexibility, cardio health, improved circulation, weight reduction, stress relief—but there’s another very important perk of regularly doing sun salutations—maintaining your muscle mass. (Conquer the aging process.)
Yoga helps prevent age-related muscle loss
One of the unwelcome changes brought on by aging is muscle loss. Beginning in our forties, our muscle mass and muscle strength start declining. Inefficient protein use further aggravates the problem. Exercise is recommended specifically for maintaining adequate muscle mass in old age, and given the differing levels of physical fitness and athletic abilities of older adults, yoga is often the activity of choice. It’s gentler on the joints than other forms of exercise and is less dangerous than weight training.
A recent study named NAMASTE (Novel Approaches to Maintaining Muscle Mass and Strength) looked at two groups of women aged 50 and older over the course of six months. One group hadn’t exercised for at least a year. The other group practiced a more impactful variety of yoga—vinyasa yoga—at least twice a week for a year. The researchers monitored the participants’ protein use, strength, balance, and diet. (Launch an all-round attack on the various causes of muscle loss.)
While body weight and BMI didn’t differ much between the two groups, the yoga group demonstrated lower body fat and higher muscle mass results as well as better balance. Moreover, the yogis had lower rates of protein synthesis and breakdown, which translates into more efficient muscle mass maintenance.
Our diet provides the body with necessary protein, so there’s a constant turnover, and exercise is known to promote protein synthesis. It follows then that increased protein intake in old age coupled with regular yoga workouts is a working recipe for muscle maintenance. It is accomplished in two ways: on the one hand, muscle loss prevention, and on the other hand, boosted muscle synthesis.
Add some of the other beneficial side effects of yoga, such as effective stress relief and opportunities for regular socialization, and you’ll be ready to embrace your elderly years with a healthy body and a healthy mind. Namaste!