Keeping Muscles Strong

Keeping Muscles Strong

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 and muscles.

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.

Maintaining strong muscles will help to preserve vitality and independence into the later decades.

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.

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.

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.

Examples of strengthening and balancing exercises include:

  • Jogging or brisk hill-walking
  • Aerobic gym classes e.g. circuit training
  • Exercises using weights
  • Pilates, Yoga or Tai Chi