Posts Tagged ‘muscle mass’

Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month

May is Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month. This is a very important health issue for women and men. Osteoporosis is related to the loss of bone mass that occurs as part of the natural process of aging. It can be accelerated when hormones are out of balance.  Although osteoporosis can occur in men, it is most common in women who have gone through menopause.

There are three factors essential for keeping your bones healthy throughout your life: adequate amounts of calcium, adequate amounts of vitamin D and regular, weight bearing exercise. Calcium and vitamin D are especially important after menopause.

Foods high in calcium include almonds, dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens and kale), beans (navy, kidney and pinto), tofu, tahini and calcium-fortified cereals. Vitamin D is necessary for the body to absorb calcium. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D, but it poses other risks. I recommend taking 1,000-2,000 IU from a supplement.

Physical activity also plays a major role in prevention. Regular strength training and aerobic exercise can improve muscle mass, balance and bone strength. Strength training including the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or even gravity exercises can directly affect your bones to slow mineral loss. Aerobic exercise like dancing and low-impact aerobics, work directly on the bones in your legs, hips and lower spine. Swimming and bicycling are good for your muscles and cardiovascular system. Mix it up to reap the benefits of different types of exercise and to prevent boredom from occurring. Oh, and don’t forget to stretch before and after exercising. It helps increase flexibility, which helps with balance and posture.

The Importance of Strength Training as You Age

Practicing strength training as we age is important because it helps us maintain muscle mass. When we lose muscle mass, we lose strength, gain weight and become frail. The good news is that strength training can reverse these effects, and quite quickly.

At age 30, people who are physically inactive lose anywhere from 3 to 5 percent of their total muscle mass per decade. After the age of 50, the rate of loss doubles. This is the biggest reason why elderly people become frail, and, because muscle dictates metabolism, is the basic cause of weight gain.  

As muscle mass declines, due to inactivity, the body needs less fuel from food. Therefore, even if you don’t eat more, as you lose muscle, more and more of your calories will be stored as fat. On top of that, with age, your body becomes less efficient at converting the protein you eat into muscle tissue, which worsens the muscle-wasting process.

Loss of age-related muscle mass and strength is known as sarcopenia, and becomes a huge problem for elderly people who become frail to the point that they cannot get out of a chair or walk across a room without assistance. This also increases the risk of for falls and broken bones as a result of those falls. Getting in the habit of practicing strength training in your 20s or 30s is good, but no worries if your pass that mark. As I mentioned before, you can quickly reverse the effects of muscle loss with strength training. Studies of nursing home residents found that as little as two weeks of strength-building exercises, with weights or other resistance, can produce dramatic changes in their ability to function. Imagine what it can do for you!