If you’re thinking you cannot increase body strength and build muscle mass after sixty, you’re wrong, it is possible even to gain muscle after 60. With good nutrition and the right exercises, individuals above the age of 60-70 can develop and improve toned muscle mass. What’s important to keep in mind is your limits of physical endurance and, in some instances, the exercises which need to be adapted to your medical condition. For those with any underlying conditions, it is best to consult a trainer and nutritionist as part of their muscle building plans. Here are 9 ways to build muscle after sixty.
Why You Need to Build or Maintain Muscle as You Age
Aches and pains are classic signs of aging including age related health risks like arthritis, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. But while you might be abiding by a healthy diet to avoid such issues, one condition remains ignored, and that is loss of skeletal muscle mass. If it is a minor issue, it poses no problem, but sooner or later, the lack of exercise can make it worse developing into what is called Sarcopenia.
Sarcopenia is severe age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength, and function caused by poor nutrition, lack of physical activity and exercise, and hormonal changes. According to research, almost 10% of the world’s population aged 40-64 suffer from sarcopenia, a condition more that affects more men than women. The percentage doubles to 15% in those 65 and older.
Adding to the problem is the increased build up of fat, replacing muscle tissue causing further risk of metabolic disease like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems, hypertension, kidney problems, cancers, and strokes. Strength training and maintaining your muscle mass is the only way to prevent sarcopenia, and to do that, you need PROTEIN. You don’t need to start deadlifting, building muscle mass can be done through resistance training and exercises such as light lifting, body strength exercises and even jogging, walking, pushups, and others. Being active helps you increase strength and retain muscle as you age improving your overall health.
Increase Your Protein
Building muscle mass after sixty is essential to be healthy and the most essential nutrient required for building muscles is protein. If you’re above sixty and want to maintain your muscle mass and body strength, you need protein, there are no two ways about it. A protein rich diet balanced with veggies, good carbs, and fiber pumps you with vitamins and good health. Protein also speeds up muscle recovery which reduces to a slower pace as you age.
Protein provides the body with nine essential amino acids, including facilitating the process of protein synthesis which occurs in the muscles. Muscle protein synthesis or MPS is the metabolism of amino acids into bound skeletal muscle protein. During protein synthesis, working out causes the breakdown of muscle fiber where recovery then regenerates and increase muscle mass and strength. Among the nine amino acids, it is the three-branch chain amino acids Leucine, isoleucine and Valine which are most important for muscle recovery and growth with leucine, being the precursor for MPS.
Research suggests that older adults need more protein, approximately 1-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram body weight (one kilogram is about 2.2 pounds). The type and quality of protein also matters as well. There is a higher concentration of amino acids present in animal-based protein sources like dairy products, meats, dairy products, etc, in comparison to plant-based alternatives like beans, soy milk, legumes, etc.
Eating A Balanced Diet
A balanced diet of various fruits and vegetables will ensure that your body has sufficient fiber, carbs, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Besides a diet, one can also consider supplements for added micro-nutrients like magnesium, calcium zinc, iron, vitamins D, B12 E etc., which support the process of building muscles. Your muscles and bones are made up of structures which remain intact and integrated by an administered calcium supply to the body. The human body continuously undergoes various biochemical reactions, which is one of the essential elements required for these effects to occur.
According to a study people with lower-than-average selenium levels were prone to have a decrease in strength of the grips, hips, and knees. A test for selenium or serum selenium can be helpful in indicating if there are signs of loss in muscle mass.
Vitamins C, D and B6 have an essential impact on the health of the body’s muscles. A deficiency in Vitamin B can eventually lead to neurological conditions which impact the motor neurons. It would be wise to have a complete combination of vitamins in your daily diet to build muscle mass after sixty
Pre-workout Warm-up and Stretches
After passing a certain age, the body’s muscles and connective tissues tend to get weaker in structure, thus increasing the risk of injury. It would help if you considered doing pre-workout exercises like stretches and low-intensity cardio to prevent excessive stress on the muscles.
There are various forms of pre-workout, like light jogging, aerobics, stretches, etc, which help in getting the body ready for physically stressful exercises. Stretches are beneficial as they reduce the chances of fractures, sprains, muscle tears and other kinds of injuries. The average duration of most pre-workouts is approximately 10 minutes which means you can schedule a warm-up based on the muscles you plan to target for the day.
Using Resistance Bands
Older individuals are advised to train their lower body with resistance-based exercises without using any machines. Resistance bands place additional stress on the muscles without the intensity required by machines. According to studies, resistance or elastic materials improve the strength of the muscles and health in older groups, even with various conditions. This is why, People who suffer from limitations in their functional performance can resort to training with elastic bands. It is recommended to complete your lower body exercises first before training your upper body and core.
Resistance Exercises Like Pushups and Sit-ups
Body weight exercises like pushups and sit-ups are also a type of resistance exercise beneficial for the elderly to build muscle mass after sixty. These significantly impact your strength and improve the recovery rate for building muscles. Pushups and sit-ups can be conveniently done at home in a small space, but be sure to take breaks in between to allow oxygenation of your muscles. Adding some high intensity exercises to your routine is an added benefit that will allow you to enjoy a physically active lifestyle above sixty.
A customized program which consists of progressive overloads and resistance can help you achieve a positive outcome on the muscular and nervous systems of the body. Training which consists of resistance-based exercises should be the primary recovery method for patients who are subjects of muscle loss or sarcopenia as a first-line treatment strategy. People above sixty are advised to use resistance-based exercises and essential equipment as they can prove to be more beneficial than free weights like dumbbells, barbells, etc.
There are two types of resistance-based exercises – uni-joint and multi-joint. An exercise which includes more than one joint is known as a multi-joint exercise. It can even consist of leg and chest presses. An exercise which provides for only one joint is called a uni-joint exercise; mainly single muscles are targeted, like bicep curls.
An individual should follow resistance-based training for a minimum of 30 minutes to an hour 2-4 days per week. There are many exercises which can be included, like seated cable rows, triceps extensions, biceps curls, wall pushups, leg extensions, and calf raises.
Use of Exercise Machines
To build muscle mass after sixty, there several exercises machines which could help you increase strength and keep fit. Some of these are lat pull machines, treadmills, rowing machines, elliptical machines, recumbent exercise bikes, etc. An elliptical machine helps an individual to perform cardio exercises while increasing or decreasing the intensity, while the machine’s function is to be stationary throughout. Leg strength and muscle could be improved with a recumbent exercise bike, and since there is padding provided in the seat which comes padded for additional comfort. A rowing machine will give you complete body workout while lat pulldown machine will focus on several muscle groups in your body.
Lifting Light to Moderate Weights
People over sixty can also lift if you’re up to it, but if you aren’t used to it, then light lifting is recommended for muscle mass, bone density and strength. It is not recommended to do heavy duty exercises and heavy weight-lifting, rather light lifting with a mix of cardio and resistance is beneficial because as you age, you become more prone to injuries, joint problems, and a reduced range of motion due to lack of flexibility. However, if you have been leading an active lifestyle, these don’t need to be issues, especially if your body is conditioned to working out.
To start on a lifting routine, perform strength-based exercises starting at a slow pace, following proper technique, and using light weights. You can focus more on your muscles when your body uses lightweight and slow movement. It is recommended never to train the same muscle groups for two days continuously.
In between your exercise sets, it is recommended to have a rest from 2-4 mins in the middle of exercises for your training session. This can help in restoring your body to its original performing capacity.
Research conducted on older adults for the effects and results of lifting weights found how older people can improve the strength of the triceps and legs just by training in free weights. If you are suffering from any medical conditions, it is always advisable to consult a trainer before starting on a lifting program. A certified trainer can customize a chart for you based on your goals and requirements.
Slow and Steady Increase of Exercise Intensity
Performing ten reps, irrespective of free weight or lightweight is adequate for those above sixty. Keep performing the same routine until you can perform 12-15 reps in a single set. After a particular period, you can apply additional weight to your exercises and begin with 10-12 reps. Keep continuing the cycle; results will display in increased muscle mass and ease with lifting weights.
Rest And Sleep
While it is ok to try and build muscle mass after sixty, sleep and rest is equally important for the recovery process. While sleeping, your body recovers from physical and mental stress experienced during the day which is why sleep is so important. Breaks in between working out are also necessary to ensure you don’t over work or exert your body, tendons, and ligaments. 1 or 2 rest days are recommended between each exercise session. Besides muscle recovery, sleep also contributes to muscle protein metabolism with sleep disorders causing issues like proteolysis, modifying body composition, and increasing the risk of insulin resistance. Moreover, sleep problems in the elderly can further create hormonal imbalances, and promote catabolic pathways in the skeletal muscle. Sleep also affects growth hormone (GH), insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), testosterone, insulin, and cortisol all of which can negatively impact your health without sleep.
To maintain and build muscle mass after sixty, you need to remember a protein rich diet and low to moderate intensity strength training. The only thing that stops you from consuming protein is if you face kidney issues which usually follows conditions like diabetes and insulin resistance. Those following a healthy diet and lifestyle won’t really face such issues. What you also need to consider is age related degeneration of muscles, nerves, joints, and bones, but these all vary from person to person.
Investing in a good healthcare program especially when you’re over seventy is advisable. Home health care providers like Ensocure Integrated Medicine in Bengaluru provide comprehensive healthcare plans like Ensocure Prime which include access to nutritional and doctors’ advice which may be worth your while.