Building Muscle After Age 70 Can Increase Quality of Life

Stacy Schroder, director of wellness and prevention, works with Masonic Village resident George Simms

Even into your late 80s, your body still has the potential to build muscle mass.

No matter how much they work to fight it, all older adults experience some level of muscle loss. The aging process compromises muscle cells’ ability to repair damage done to them, meaning human bodies lose muscle cells as they age. Seniors who work at it, however, can still make strength gains.

“Research shows that, even into your late 80s, your body still has the potential to build muscle mass,” Stacy Schroder, director of wellness and prevention at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown said.

Strength training does not totally reverse the process, but it makes up for losses in muscle mass, which can play a major factor in falls – one of the most common causes of hospitalization for older adults. Muscle also burns more calories than fat.

For beginners, Schroder recommends slowly integrating resistance training, preferably with the help of a personal trainer; this “makes sure you are safe while challenging you to make strength gains.” She advises beginning with lower body strength training exercises that don’t require equipment. Then add resistance through external objects like free weights and resistance bands. After that, move on to exercises designed to increase core strength and upper body strength.

“Most of our clients at the Baird Wellness Center need assistance to work on balance, flexibility and strength to prevent falls, and independence is high on their priority list,” Schroder said. “People want to start out doing what they used to do when they were 20 or 30 years old, but adaptations need to be made to accommodate prior injuries, lack of flexibility, decreasing muscle mass and limited range of motion.”

Building muscle mass is also affected by nutrition. Certain foods are more helpful when looking to increase muscle mass. Schroder advises eating “protein, protein and more protein.”

From chicken to steel-cut oats, there’s a protein-rich food from every section of the food pyramid, which offers a simple and convenient way to boost your muscle-building ability.

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