How does muscle loss occur?
“To ‘lose muscle mass’ generally refers to muscular atrophy, or the decrease in size and/or number of muscle fibers that occurs when a person has decreased activity or training. This can be in the case of immobility—due to injury or in the hospital setting—or compared to a person’s baseline,” Roger Luo, MD, assistant professor of spine and musculoskeletal medicine at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, previously told Well+Good. Personal trainer, Sarah Bowmar, MBA, CPT, adds that not having enough protein and amino acids in one’s diet can also be a culprit. Keeping active and maintaining a well-balanced diet are two sure fire ways to keep your muscles healthy and working their best.
How can you prevent muscle loss early on?
To prevent muscle loss early on, Bowmar recommends weight lifting at least 3 times per week, making sure to work different muscle groups each day and not all of them all at once, and consuming at least one gram of protein for each one pound of lean body mass you have. That said, according to Onyx personal trainer, Cameron Countryman, any type of movement and resistance or strength training is a great way to prevent muscle loss. “When we cause strain to our muscle fibers, they tear. Our bodies then use the enzymes and nutrients from our food to rebuild those muscle fibers (protein resynthesis) and help our muscles grow in size,” he explains. So, getting in your steps while walking or running and doing body weight exercises are also easy ways to stay active when you don’t have time to hit the gym. Daily functional movements help to build muscles that you use in your active daily life. “For example training back muscles will help with your posture [and the] muscles that lose their strength as we sit at our desk or commute to work,” adds Kristie Alicea, CPT, founder of ABC Fit Collective.
Easy daily exercises to prevent muscle loss
Push-ups are great for building muscle in our pectoral (chest) and shoulder muscles including the traps and deltoids. They can also help keep your joints lubricated and healthy.
Dips are tricep focused movements. Working these muscles is very important because our tricep makes up for two-thirds of the muscle mass in our arms, explains Countryman.
Squats help build muscle in our glutes, calves, and hamstrings. According to Countryman, “our entire posterior chain is challenged in a squat and [they] will help with our posture and keeping our spine strong and aligned.”
Lunges are a great lower body movement that focuses on our quads and glutes. They also add in the challenge of stability and can work out our core along with the lower body muscles which can help with balance and posture.
The good old plank is an ever-helpful core stabilizing exercise that will “build the abdominal muscles while helping align and strengthen our back, core, and glutes,” explains Countryman.
6. Good mornings
“Good mornings” are a stretch and resistance movement all in one. Start with your legs hip-width apart and a slight bend in the knees, then hinge at the hips with an engaged core to 90 degrees before pushing back up to standing. This can be done alone or with a barbell. “Good mornings” can build and lengthen our hamstrings which are one of the biggest muscles in our body.
Why is it important to prevent muscle loss?
If you’re wondering why strength training is so vital, it really comes down to how well your body functions and how it feels while it’s working. “On average, adults who don’t do regular strength training can expect to lose 4 to 6 pounds of muscle per decade,” explains the Harvard study. This means that your daily routines may feel harder to get through, regular tasks may take longer, and you’ll probably end up suffering from more soreness, and consistent aches and pains. It can also “hinder your ability to cope with and recover from an illness or injury,” the study adds. So, to prevent falling, injury, and other health-related issues like osteoporosis and mobility struggles, it’s vital to start preparing your muscles early.
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