There’s no doubt that aging affects every part of our body, from head to toe. For many of us, what really sends us into a tither is the dreaded appearance of a wrinkle or a renegade gray hair. I certainly don’t welcome either one, but another visible aging biomarker we are very empowered to change is our muscle. Many of us, particularly women, don’t prioritize gaining and/or maintaining muscle as many men do. But if more of us understood how crucial our muscles are to maintaining a healthy sexy body, we’d be more excited about implementing some small changes that can affect a huge difference in the rate at which our bodies age.
As we progress through adulthood, our muscles begin to dwindle in size and strength. These muscles burn a lot of calories each day, and as they shrink with age, we naturally begin to burn fewer calories. This means that if we continue to eat the same way, we will gain weight. It also means that as our muscles decrease in size, our body fat increases. Less muscle makes us less sensitive to insulin, meaning we need to produce more of it to achieve the same result. This is called poor insulin sensitivity, which leads to poor glucose control. Smaller weaker muscles also mean that our bones are more likely to be weak. Exercise that helps your muscles helps your bones, too.
Maintaining (or building) muscle isn’t just an exercise in vanity. It’s about staying fit, vital, independent, and free of disease. Best of all, you have a lot of control over your muscle mass and strength–more than you realize. Experts have seen that declining muscle isn’t just an unpreventable fact of aging. In large part it’s due to lack of use. Even people in their 90s can show impressive strength gains with exercise.
In order to maintain or build our muscle we have to include resistance training as a part of our exercise program. Consider working at least one session with a qualified fitness professional as you begin to work out. A personal trainer can help you design a program, teach you how to do exercises, and observe your form to ensure it’s correct. As you begin the Positively Ageless 28-day plan to start aging gracefully, be sure to devote as much attention to exercise as you do to your diet.
If you’re trying to lose weight, the plan you choose should include an exercise program. If you see a weight-loss plan that doesn’t include exercise–run–literally! The goal of healthy weight loss is to lose fat, not muscle, so be sure you’re working out.
In terms of your food choices, if you’re exercising and trying to maintain and/or build muscle, be sure to include plenty of lean protein. The recommended daily allowance of protein for adults may not be enough to encourage sufficient muscle maintenance, as you get older. Researchers haven’t pinned down exactly how much you should strive to get. If you aim for getting 30 percent of your calories from protein, however, you should get enough to support muscle maintenance and growth. Lean protein is also required for building and preserving muscle. Lack of protein can contribute to fatigue. In addition, your body needs a steady supply of protein to keep your muscles strong. When your muscles are weak, you may be dragging at the end of a day filled with chores and other physical activity. Get most of your daily protein from low-fat sources:
- Lean white meat from chicken or turkey.
- Low-fat or fat-free dairy products such as Greek-style yogurt, cottage cheese or milk.
- Lean plant proteins including beans and legumes or edamame. Half a cup of these green immature soybeans contains a whopping 14 grams of protein.
- Egg whites and occasional whole eggs if cholesterol’s not an issue for you