Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, is a common problem and can be a major cause of pain and discomfort when not managed. Losing muscle mass as we age might seem inevitable, but the truth is, there’s a lot that you can do to combat the frustrating condition — and even the smallest bit of effort can make a world of difference.
When it comes to the health of your muscles, bones, and joints, different factors come into play. For one, there’s your diet. As you age, it’s extremely important to consume adequate protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D from healthy, whole-food sources. But on top of diet, the way you exercise is a key ingredient to sustaining healthy, sturdy muscles as time goes along.
Sarcopenia is accelerated by muscle atrophy and lack of use as well as inflammation and stress, so incorporating some exercise into your daily routine will be necessary if you want to stay strong. The good news is, you don’t have to overdo it sweating at the gym. The exercises below have all shown to improve muscle mass and even reverse sarcopenia — and they can all be done for free!
You may think that you’re not getting a good workout just by walking because you’re not breaking a sweat, but actually, regular walking is really good for your muscles and bones over time. In fact, one study of 227 elderly Japanese adults found that increasing their walking just 10 percent helped to increase muscle mass, specifically in those who previously suffered from low muscle mass.
And don’t be afraid to pick up the pace! Another study of adults over 60 found that those who walked faster were less likely to suffer from sarcopenia.
2. Resistance Exercises
It sounds fancy, but resistance training doesn’t require more than your own body weight. Using resistance to engage the muscles causes a surge in growth-promoting hormones that signal the body to produce more muscle tissue. And not only do these signals encourage the growth of new muscle tissue, but they also help to reinforce existing muscle tissue by making it stronger.
One study of adults over the age of 65 showed that resistance training resulted in increased muscle mass after 12 weeks in subjects with limited mobility. What’s more, these individuals also experienced greater flexibility and mobility in their bodies at the end of the study!
Some body weight resistance exercises you can try include push-ups (try an easier version with your knees on the ground, if you need to!), planks, squats, and lunges. You can find great body-weight resistance workouts on YouTube. And if you’re looking to up the ante, you can even try including resistance bands and weights into your routine!
3. Endurance Exercises
Endurance training refers to aerobic exercise and other sustained movements that raise the heart rate, like biking or swimming, for example. Endurance training is well known for being beneficial to heart health, so it’s definitely important to do as you get older.
Promising studies on endurance training for sarcopenia usually combine it with some sort of resistance training. However, one study of women over age 50 found that endurance exercises, namely jogging, cycling, and hiking, increased muscle mass. And what’s more, these women were encouraged to start off adding 15 minutes of exercise, steadily increasing to 45 minutes. That’s no time at all!
There you have it. In as little as an extra 15 minutes a day, you can prevent and even reverse the signs of age-related muscle loss at no extra cost to you. All of these exercises can be done for free, so why not start now?