Why is it important to replace muscle mass as we age?

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine
It's important to replace muscle mass as we age, because it's key for overall strength, balance, vitality, and quality of life. Watch me explain how strong muscles keep you healthier as you get older.
It is important to replace and or maintain muscle mass as you age through regular exercise to help to prevent weakness, fatigue, reduced ability to perform activities of daily living and to reduce the risk of poor balance, falls and injuries associated with decreased muscle mass and strength. Also regular exercise consisting of aerobic and strength training will help to maintain your metabolic rate and bone density, as well as improve your overall mental and emotional health.

Muscle mass and strength training play three important roles as we age:

1. Strength training improves and maintains our strength to allow us to keep living life in the way we choose. If we include strength training into our fitness plans and focus on strengthening the stabilizing and movement muscles of the legs, back, core, and shoulders, we will reduce our risk for falling, slowed movement, injuries, loss of function, and loss of freedom to live how we choose.

2. Improved muscle mass promotes bone mass and joint health by placing healthy stress on bones that prevents joints and bones from breaking down. By adding muscle tissue through resistance training and then teaching those muscles to work properly together and balance all the muscles around the joints, we reduce the chances of osteoporosis, arthritis, joint injury, loss of balance and falling.

3. Muscle tissue maintains a healthy metabolism and prevents weight gain. Muscle burns TWICE the amount of calories as fat tissue. By maintaining our muscle tissue through proper nutrition and exercise, we assure that our metabolism maintains healthy levels of activity, we reduce the risk of several preventable disease related to slowed metabolism such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and we prevent the extra weight gain that we see in most older adults.

If you do not maintain your muscle mass as you age you will find performing daily tasks like chores around your house, getting out of a chair increasingly difficult to do. Loss of muscle mass and strength also dramatically increases your risk of falls as you age and decrease your ability to recover from illness or injury. Performing regular bouts of resistance training exercise 2-3 times a week will help you maintain your muscles mass as well as improve bone mass and protect you against the wasting of  muscle and bone that often occurs with age. Perform 2-3 sessions a week focusing on all the major body parts each time you lift. If you’re new to lifting start with light weights in the 12-15 repetition.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.