By Beth Jennings, PT, MPT, CHWC
When it comes to discussing health and longevity, plenty of attention surrounds obesity, cholesterol, or high blood pressure. The importance of building muscle mass and strength to increase longevity is gaining notice.
Xu et al. (2022) found that age-related low muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, can double the mortality risk in community-dwelling adults and nursing home residents.
Liu et al. (2020) found that just one hour of resistance exercises per week could decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease and death from any cause. Only one hour!
Muscle mass and strength can start to decline as early as our 40s and picks up speed in our 60s. Researchers don’t have a clear answer on the cause, but it is likely due to an increasingly sedentary lifestyle combined with physiological changes in your body that occur with age. At least the sedentary lifestyle is a factor you can change.
The rate of lean muscle mass loss has been reported at about 6% per decade. So, an 85-year-old will likely have about three-quarters of the muscle mass they had at 45. And if you lose enough muscle mass so that you are sarcopenic, this can lead to frailty and disability.
Here’s The Good News
If you haven’t reached midlife yet, make building muscle a priority so you are starting with greater muscle mass when this decline begins.
This is similar to what we talked about with bone density in our post, Building Your Bone Bank. And guess what? Similar strategies that improve your bone density can also improve your muscle mass and strength. But we’ll get to that later.
If you’re in midlife or older, know that you can build muscle mass and strength at any age. It won’t be as easy to build the same amount you did in your 20s. Still, it will counteract the decline and reduce your risk of sarcopenia, which can affect your health and safety. It makes sense that low muscle mass and strength have been shown to lead to disability, loss of independence, and a shorter lifespan.
The Muscle-building Formula
Our bodies are continually breaking down muscle protein and building it back up. Dietary protein provides the building blocks for muscle and resistance exercises provide challenge to muscles which triggers growth.
You can’t have muscle growth without adequate protein in your diet. And if you have adequate protein, you can’t gain muscle mass or strength without challenging your muscles. You have to have both.
Now how much protein is required is a much-debated topic and varies depending on individual activity level, health history, and other nutritional needs. Consider anywhere from 1.0 to 1.6g of protein per kg body weight as a reference. Frail elderly might require more.
Read about protein and dietary intake recommendations to learn more or speak to your doctor or a dietician about your specific needs.
Challenge your muscles. Whether that by moving bales of hay, carrying around your 6-month-old, or lifting weights at the gym, it all counts as resistance exercises. But it has to tire your muscles.
We at FYZICAL - Forest Grove know a thing or two about strengthening and we can customize an exercise program to meet your individual needs.
Here are some previous posts where we talked about ways to build your muscles.
Squats - A Functional Exercise for Beginners to Experts
Scapular Stabilizers: The Key to Shoulder Performance
Was anything surprising in this post? Share it with a friend through one of the links at the top of the page. And start building some muscle.
Beth Jennings, PT, MPT, CHWC is a physical therapist and a certified health and wellness coach.
Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Phillips SM. Nutritional supplements in support of resistance exercise to counter age-related sarcopenia. Adv Nutr. 2015 Jul 15;6(4):452-60. doi: 10.3945/an.115.008367. PMID: 26178029; PMCID: PMC4496741.
Xu J, Wan C, S, Ktoris K, Reijnierse E, M, Maier A, B: Sarcopenia Is Associated with Mortality in Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Gerontology 2022;68:361-376. doi: 10.1159/000517099
Liu Y, Lee DC, Li Y, et al. Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2019;51(3):499-508. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001822
Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct. 2016;7(3):1251-1265. doi:10.1039/c5fo01530h