Sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss is a normal part of getting older. Luckily, fueling up on enough protein and vitamin D can slow it down. Regular physical activity like resistance training, strength workouts, flexibility stretches, aerobic exercises can also help. Top it off with a gentle yoga practice (shakti mudra or kapalbhati posture) for a holistic remedy.
Aging is a normal part of life – that much we know. It usually brings on sarcopenia or age-related muscle loss. And while old age seems far away, you might be surprised to learn that sarcopenia can begin in your 30s. In fact, a sedentary 30-something-year-old can start to lose between 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass each decade. Clearly, there’s plenty at stake. Even active people can still lose some muscle. So, how do you limit this from happening?
The concept of early sarcopenia prevention has been gaining traction. After all, muscle strength and mass in later years aren’t only linked to diet and exercise during that time. It’s associated with the peak muscle mass in your younger years, too. This means that the best time to prevent sarcopenia is right now! Of course, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the prime of your life or middle-aged. Early intervention and careful attention to diet and exercise are crucial. So, instead of counting on a miracle during your senior years, don’t procrastinate.1 It’s never (ever) too early to start.
4 Ways To Stop Age-Related Muscle Loss
1. Increase Protein Intake
Protein can be a game changer when it comes to muscle development. According to research, an increase in protein intake can actually stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Studies also suggest that, aside from meeting RDA protein requirements, elders should incorporate 25 to 30 grams of “high-quality protein” in every single meal. And since protein intake under 20 grams can actually blunt muscle protein synthesis in elders, these recommendations are worth taking note of.2
Not sure where to start? Here are some foods that will boost your protein intake:3
Fish or seafood
Meats like beef, lamb, or pork
Lentils and beans
Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products
Whey Protein Or Casein?
Sometimes, you might be advised to supplement with protein powders. These basically make up the post-workout protein shakes that fitness buffs and body builders often drink. Yet, with so many options out there, you might be feeling super confused. Should you drink whey-based protein? Or casein? Or none at all? According to research, whey is the top choice. It’s been proven to be more effective in increasing muscle protein synthesis in comparison to casein.4 If you’re still confused, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or nutritionist.
2. Strengthen Your Muscles With Vitamin D
Your body needs vitamin D to maintain stellar neuromuscular function and muscle strength.5 For example, a study commissioned by the Society for Sarcopenia, Cachexia, and Wasting Disease shared that those with low vitamin D levels would need to normalize their intake in order to manage sarcopenia.6
Start by getting your daily dose of sunshine. You can also fuel up on vitamin D through food:7
Fatty fish like sardines, salmon, mackerel, and tuna
Cod liver oil
Vitamin D fortified cereal
Vitamin D fortified milk
3. Exercise To Stop Muscle Loss And Maintain Muscle Tone
The right food is important, but it doesn’t stop there. Physical activity also matters. According to experts, retaining muscle tone and halting age-related muscle loss calls for both regular aerobic and resistance exercise.8 It’s the perfect reason to get moving.
Progressive Resistance Training
Even the most active people can’t totally prevent age-related muscle loss. Pro-athletes aren’t spared, either. So, why bother working out? It comes down to a difference in the rate of onset and extent of loss. Physical inactivity simply speeds up the condition. One study on aging suggests a wider “public health approach” to prevent (and stop) the progress of sarcopenia. No matter the age, higher levels of physical activity could be the key to preventing large-scale disability in elders. For some, progressive resistance training may be most effective.9
Difficulty of frequency, weight, and duration is the main focus here. This should increase progressively as you build up ability, strength, and stamina over time. And if you’re an elder? It’s best to ditch the dumbbells and use your own body weight for resistance. Give these routines a try and see what works for you.10
Standing up from a seated position in a chair
Strength exercises have been recognized for their beneficial effect on increasing and maintaining muscle mass. The outcome is something special: better quality of life in older adults.11 Strength exercises should be done twice a week for about half an hour, taking care to rotate the muscle group involved.12
To get you started, try these exercises shared by the National Institutes of Health for Seniors.13
Resistance band exercises while seated
Arm or wrist curls
Side arm raises
Flexibility exercises can also lend a hand. This can include gentle upward and outward stretching, flexing arms and legs, or touching knees with your fingertips while keeping legs stretched. The best part? You can do these when you wake up, while in bed, or even in a seat. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what works best for you.
For elders in good health, the American Heart Association recommends fitting in about 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each day.14 You can try:
Dancing or Exercising To Music
The power of yoga might be exactly what you need to delay sarcopenia and limit atrophy. For example, the muscle atrophy in astronauts is pretty similar to the sarcopenia in seniors. One report found yoga to be useful in the mitigation and rehabilitation for those astronauts, suggesting a similar application for elders. Specifically, there are four grounding asanas (Padmasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana, and Sirshasana) that can help build muscle tone. Kapalbhati posture and Shakti mudra are able to boost metabolism, build muscle tissue, and enhance neuromuscular transmission. These actions can work together to stall sarcopenia.15 Paired with light morning stretching, gentle yoga practice will keep your circulation going as well.16 Time to get your stretch on!
4. Control Other Illnesses To Halt Sarcopenia
Many studies have looked at sarcopenia in conjunction with existing illnesses. Compared to normal healthy individuals, sarcopenia is more common in those with conditions like obesity, osteoporosis, osteopenia, type-2 diabetes, and breast cancer. It only makes sense that battling or controlling the other health condition may help slow down muscle loss.17