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One New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep-Strengthen Your Muscles

You’ve heard the adage “use it or lose it”. It’s particularly apt in describing what happens as we age. Typically we move less, lose muscle strength, and suffer the consequences of losing independence, have greater fall risk and other undesirable things. At the beginning of each year, people commonly make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or somehow “get in shape”. But, we also know that most people don’t keep those resolutions very long and eventually just give them up.

A Key To Independence

Here are some thoughts on what any older person can and must do if you don’t want to lose your independence over time. You have to work on your nutrition and your muscles. This does not require going to gym. It does not mean you have to train for a competition. It does mean that we must structure strength training in some form into every week and have protein intake that is recommended as we get older. You need a plan, a schedule and at least a few basic pieces of equipment. You need to choose high protein foods every day and keep track of how much you are getting. You need a commitment to start and stick with this plan as if your future independence totally relied on it. In truth, it does.

Keys To Preventing Muscle Loss

According to Refat Hagazi, M.D., reporting in Health (Aug. 17, 2016) “If your muscles are broken down and weaker, it can be more of a challenge to fight off and recover from a health setback. That’s why muscle health is like a savings account — you must build up a reserve that you can rely on in times of need to help you get back on your feet quicker.”

This is not new news. We lose muscle mass as we age and we need to work at keeping up muscle strengthening if we want to remain independent. Sitting all day and evening will not do it!

Many other health experts in aging reflect this thinking. We sometimes think of our muscles as just our biceps, but in fact, it is our entire muscle structure of our bodies that needs our attention. Nutrition, particularly good quality protein, is often overlooked as a key component of muscle health. We get some protein from many things in the usual diets we eat, but as we age, we need to concentrate more on getting enough protein. Meat, fish, eggs, beans, grains like quinoa and nuts are easily available sources. If you’re aiming for more plant-based and less animal products in your diet, you can add plant-derived protein powder or drinks to add to your overall protein amount every day. Just avoid the ones with artificial sugars (e.g., sucralose, aspartame), as these are not good for your health.

How much protein do we need to maintain muscle strength? According to the National Institutes of Health, we need about 35 grams of protein at every meal. If one palm-sized chicken breast has about 20 grams of protein, you get the idea. You need more than that, particularly if you are over age 50. And yes, that’s every meal. Changing eating habits can be hard but enough protein will help rebuild muscle and slow further loss.

Preventing Muscle Loss

Losing muscle mass is inevitable with aging. Think of how your muscle structure looked at age 25, compared with how it looked as you passed into and beyond middle age. Less muscle now, right? A little strength work every day can make a huge difference in our energy and our Resilience. But how do you even start? Maybe you hate the idea of joining a gym.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), together with the National Institute on Aging has produced a good 15 minute sample home workout video for older adults, which is on YouTube. Just about anyone can do this. The equipment includes things like a sturdy chair, two tennis balls, two weighted objects like soup cans or light dumbbells and a towel. Who can’t find those?

How Much Strength Work Do You Need?

Suppose you’re now interested in getting stronger. The idea of depending on others for your daily activities as you age terrifies you. The recommended amount of strength training at home or anywhere is twice a week, and as you can tolerate it. If you haven’t exercised before, every authority strongly advises that you get a checkup with your doctor to be sure of your condition before you start. Let’s assume you’re okay to do some kind of strength training and other exercise after that checkup. Perhaps you start the modified workout from YouTube, as above. Then you can progress from 15 minutes to a 30 minute version. These senior-focused exercise videos are readily available and free for anyone who can use the internet. They can be with music, different trainers, and different styles. The important thing is to get into a new habit of working your muscles. Some researchers believe that it takes 21 days to build a new habit. Doing a low key workout for 15 minutes at home for 21 days in a row doesn’t sound too hard, does it?

Takeaway

Of course many of us do make those New Year’s resolutions but we don’t keep them so well. If you start with something very basic, a small achievable habit, like watching and doing a 15 minute exercise video, you’re more likely to keep at least this one health resolution for 2024—get stronger, and reduce muscle loss. And while you’re at it, pay closer attention to your protein intake. For any senior reading this, or any adult child of an aging parent, consider that the recommendations for seniors apply as well to those under 65. Doing an exercise program together, and being accountable to one another for keeping it going just might benefit everyone.

For advice and strategy about how to manage your stubborn or difficult aging loved ones, contact us at AgingParents.com or call 866-962-4464 today. Professional guidance can help reduce your stress.

Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Attorney, AgingParents.com

 

The post One New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep-Strengthen Your Muscles appeared first on Aging Parents.

Originally Published on AgingParents.com

Carolyn Rosenblatt Registered Nurse & Certified Public Health Nurse

Carolyn Rosenblatt is a Registered Nurse and certified Public Health Nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of San Francisco. She worked in nursing homes and hospitals before moving into public health. She made thousands of house calls to hundreds of elderly people and their families. She put herself through law school at USF while working as a nurse. She understands your aging parent care issues firsthand.

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