Maintaining Muscle Mass and Bone Density as You Age

Maintaining Muscle Mass and Bone Density as You Age

Kayla Van Boven
Assistant Director of Fitness & Recreational Services

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 9.37.01 PMBesides a healthy heart and slim waistline, exercise has benefits that will stick with you for years to come. Muscle mass and bone density are critical components to one’s functionality and overall health, and they are both components that we will eventually begin to lose as we age.

Sarcopenia refers to the muscle loss individuals experience as they age. This can affect both their functionality and ability to perform daily tasks as well as their metabolism, which is a contributing factor to the weight gain individuals may experience as they age. While physically inactive individuals will begin losing their muscle mass at a faster rate than their physically active counterparts three to five percent per decade starting at age 30, both populations need to realize the importance of adhering to an exercise program.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommended participating in strength training for every major muscle group two days a week. Building muscle now will help counter muscle loss in the years to come.

Additionally, strength training and weight bearing activities can help build strong bones, another critical component for maintaining your mobility as you age. The National Institute for Health states that individuals typically reach their peak bone density in their 30s, at which point they begin losing it. Just as with working now to maintain your muscle mass as you age, building up your bone density now will help to counter the loss in the years to come.

To help maintain your bone density, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends participating in strength training two to three days a week, and high- and low-impact weight bearing activities such as dancing, running and fast walking for 30 minutes most days of the week. Balance, postural and functional exercises are also beneficial. Participating in activities such as yoga can help improve balance and posture. Rock climbing is another fun exercise that will help strengthen your whole body and help improve posture by strengthening your back and core.

Functional exercises are those that simulate the activities of daily living, such as stair climbing, getting off the couch and doing yard work. Mayo Clinic provides examples of exercises to simulate these activities including multi-directional lunges, using the stair climber, doing step ups with weight and even deadlifts.

As one loses bone density and muscle mass, he or she will lose the ability to perform those daily tasks of daily living with the same ease as he or she once did. Additionally, a decrease in muscle mass will also lead to a decrease in metabolism, which may lead to weight gain. Getting a head start now on exercise and adopting it as a lifestyle habit will help improve your functionality and health in the long run.