Does staying stronger help you live longer? It’s a question researchers have been exploring. Until recent years, body mass index (BMI) was a measurement physicians often used to determine health. But we now know BMI isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Simply put, body mass index measures your weight in relation to your height. It doesn’t, however, separate fat from muscle. So an athletic person who has significant muscle mass could earn an unhealthy BMI score despite being very fit.
Research shows how important strong muscles are in aging well. Weight training a few days a week to build or preserve muscle mass can help seniors maintain core strength and balance. Both are critical in preventing falls, a leading cause of disability and even death among older adults.
Finally, research published in the American Journal of Medicine shared the results of a study conducted at UCLA. Scientists there say that building muscle mass can also help older adults reduce their metabolic risk, a contributor to heart disease. Their work showed that the greater a senior’s muscle mass, the longer their life expectancy.
What can you and your senior loved ones do pump up your muscle mass?
It’s not really as complicated as you might think.
Tips for Seniors and Caregivers to Build Muscle Mass
The clinical term for the loss of muscle mass is sarcopenia. Health professionals suggest thinking of it as osteoporosis of the muscles. And it starts much earlier than you might expect.
Experts say sarcopenia begins impacting adults as early as their thirties. But there are steps you can take to prevent this decline:
- Strength Training: Engaging in modified weight training two or three times a week can help. Talk to your primary care physician for advice or for a referral to a physical therapist who can help you create a senior-friendly weight routine.
- Endurance Activities: If you aren’t already engaging in regular fitness activities, put this on your list to discuss with your doctor, too. Types of exercise that build endurance and core strength include swimming, walking, chair yoga, and Pilates.
- Balanced Diet: Protein is a key ingredient for building muscle mass. The Harvard Medical School suggests adults consume seven grams of protein for every 20 pounds of body weight each day.
Senior-Friendly Fitness Resources
While joining a fitness club like your local YMCA can offer great social benefits, not everyone is comfortable working out in a public environment. You and your senior loved one might find resources on these two sites helpful for creating your own fitness routine.
- Go4Life: This program has been gaining a lot of attention on social media channels lately, but it has actually been around for a while. Developed by the National Institute on Aging, a part of the National Institutes of Health, Go4Life is a free resource center. Seniors can download and print exercise guides, nutrition information, and menus. You can even order a complimentary workout DVD with exercises older adults can perform in the privacy of their own living room.
- AARP Health: Many seniors already belong to AARP. They have resources for members and non-members alike. One of their most popular videos is The AARP 15-Minute Workout.
Health & Wellness at Sunrise
At Sunrise Senior Living, we know how important it is for older adults to stay active and engaged with life. One of our 8 Signature Programs is Live With Action, which incorporates tips from our partner, the NIA, to help our residents stay physically active.
We share what we’ve learned about aging well in our Elder Care Resources and Information Center. Visit it to find information on exercise, nutrition, heart health and more!