Healthy Muscles for Life

Healthy Muscles for Life

It’s true that healthy muscle protects your bones, and that strong muscles need protein. Dairy is recognised as a valuable source of this all-important protein. Dairy is also rich in vitamins and minerals, including calcium, which is needed for the maintenance of normal bones.

When it comes to deciding what’s best for you and your body, trust facts, not fads.

Muscle Health and Ageing

We all know that our muscles are vital for movement, supporting our skeleton and positioning our posture, but why are they important as we age?

It is well documented that people are living longer and by 2030 it is expected that one in five people in Ireland will be aged over 65 years.

Getting older doesn’t mean we have to slow down as it can be a great time to embrace new opportunities and adventures. To enjoy this phase of life to the full, we need to maintain our strength and vitality; whether we chose to continue working, take up new hobbies or run after the grandchildren. Maintaining strong muscles will help to preserve vitality and independence into the later decades.

Keeping muscles healthy is not just a task for professional athletes! We use our muscles throughout the day to perform everyday tasks such as housework or walking up the stairs. Skeletal muscle represents the most abundant tissue in the human body, accounting for up to 50% of body weight in young adults. Each day, about 1-2 % of this muscle is broken down and rebuilt but our ability to regenerate muscle tissue is reduced with ageing.

The word sarcopenia, coming from the Greek ‘sarx’, for flesh and ‘penia’ for loss, describes the progressive decline in muscle mass that accompanies ageing. Generally speaking, after the age of 50 we naturally lose about 1 % of our muscle mass per year. These small losses go mostly unnoticed, but over time they can accumulate, resulting in decreased strength and function. Initially, it may be that we don’t look as toned as before or maybe we don’t feel strong enough to run up a flight of stairs but fast forward and the impact can be more devastating. Sarcopenia can cause fragility and loss of independence, increasing the risk of falls and fractures. It is also associated with poorer health consequences such as obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes, contributing to the economic burden on our healthcare system.

Exercise, combined with a balanced diet that provides good quality protein are essential for muscle growth and maintenance and they are therefore vital factors that most people can incorporate to help prevent the onset of sarcopenia.

In terms of exercise, the important thing to remember is that it gets easier when it is built into a routine. Signing up to an exercise class in advance or committing to meet a friend for a brisk walk can help to stay motivated. Before jumping in the car or using the elevator, ask yourself if you could walk instead. Regular muscle-strengthening and balance exercises can be beneficial at all ages and are important for maintaining strong muscles. If you are not sure where to start, ask an expert for advice.

Some examples are listed below:

  • Digging in the garden
  • Lifting
  • Carrying
  • Step aerobics
  • Exercises using hand-held weights
  • Tai chi