Most people take their muscles for granted. It’s pretty easy to do. Unless you’re trying to be a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, you probably don’t think about them at all.
And it’s a huge mistake. Especially if you’re 50+. In fact, it’s very easy to argue that muscle mass and strength is far more important to older folks than younger ones.
Now, I’m not saying you need to get to the gym and start lifting heavy.
That’s a ridiculous idea.
But the reality is that that’s what comes to mind when people think of muscle. Muscle, and what it takes to support it, is far more complex (and perhaps easier to support than you think).
Do you like independence? Things like carrying groceries, putting away dishes, cutting the grass or gardening? What about being able to go out for a walk or being able to withstand a bump or fall? Muscle is essential for all of that.
Thankfully, just using your muscles can offer support. Walking, carrying things, or putting other forms of tension upon them can help them activate and strengthen. But that’s really not enough. As you get older, you naturally lose muscle mass annually, putting you at risk for sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is essentially the osteoporosis of muscle.
So, one thing to do is get more active. The more you show your muscles they are needed, the less likely they are to waste away. Taking some time each week to perform specific resistance exercises can also help. This can include three 30-minute sessions per week.
Exercises like wall squats, pushups (if you can’t do them on the ground, stand and use your kitchen counter), or lift items from the ground. For example, lifting some books or an ottoman can help. Just be sure to lift with your legs, keeping your back straight.
Now, that’s only half of it. The movements are one thing. But you need to make sure you’re feeding muscle what it needs to stick around and get stronger. Basically, you need protein—and probably a lot more than you’re getting.
In the opinion of many experts, the daily recommended intake for protein is too low, particularly for older people who are dealing with natural muscle loss. General recommendations are 0.8 g per kg of body weight, but boosting it to 1 or 1.2 g per kg may be what you need.
The best sources of protein are animal products like meat, poultry, and dairy. Supplementation may be worthwhile if you can’t reach your targets with whole food alone.