It’s no secret that diet and exercise are the foundation of a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of your age, there’s a direct correlation between how you treat your body and how good you feel.
When we’re young, we’re naturally more active. As we get older, life tends to slow down and the effects of good nutrition and exercise (or the lack thereof) become more apparent to us.
But why does this happen? And what can you do about it?
The Link Between Exercise and Health
Regular exercise is beneficial at every age. But for older adults, making a conscious effort to exercise regularly is a necessity.
While the cardiovascular benefits of aerobic exercise are well known, that’s only part of the picture. To maintain optimal health, you can also benefit from strength training to fight the loss of muscle mass.
As early as age 30, we begin to experience the loss of muscle mass and strength. Loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to the reduced mobility and loss of balance we associate with the aging process.
The great news is that you can fight muscle loss without spending every waking hour at the gym. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these simple weekly exercise suggestions for older adults:
- Perform 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week.
- Include at least two sessions of weight and/or resistance training per week that work all major muscle groups.
If it’s been a while since your last workout or if you struggle with mobility issues, the National Institute on Aging offers information about exercises that can help you avoid injury and regain flexibility. Before you integrate a new workout routine into your life, be sure you consult with your doctor.
The Importance of Protein
You know you need to eat well to feel well. Choosing nutrient-dense foods is important at any age. As we age, protein becomes even more crucial to the maintenance of healthy muscle mass.
A study appearing in the online journal Sports Medicine concluded that raising daily protein intake in conjunction with weight or resistance training can help adults better maintain muscle mass. According to a recent article published by the National Institutes of Health, not only should we consider the amount of protein consumed in a day, but also the timing in which we eat it. The study summarized that adults 65 years of age and older should consume between 0.8 and 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
To make sure you’re getting enough protein, simply:
- Add more lean meats like chicken and turkey to your meals.
- Drink high-quality protein shakes after exercise or between meals.
- Add eggs or nuts to meals or snacks for an extra protein boost (and a dose of good fats!).
- Add protein to your early meals so you more evenly consume it throughout your day.
The same article asserts the importance of spreading your protein intake evenly throughout the day, rather than consuming it all during one meal.
Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D
Along with the primary benefit of keeping your bones healthy, studies show that vitamin D can help maintain muscle, which helps older adults maintain balance. Vitamin D is easy to find in foods like salmon, tuna, eggs, milk, and mushrooms.
Consistency Is Key
Adding exercise to your routine and more protein to your diet is definitely a lifestyle change. But it doesn’t have to be a dramatic change. Making smart choices around eating and exercising can lead to healthier habits and a healthier you. The effects can be amazing now and can continue to be for years to come.
What is your experience or health tips around increasing or maintaining your muscles?