Maintain your muscle mass to stay strong, energetic and mobile. And yes, you can banish bingo wings!
Maximising muscles in middle age becomes less about chasing a six-pack, and more about maintaining good muscle function to stay active in later life. And there’s evidence to show that this is even more important for women as we age here’s how to boost yours beyond 50.
Retaining muscle has overall health benefi ts for many reasons from maintaining core strength and helping build bone density, to increasing metabolism and aiding weight-loss. ‘The greater your muscle mass, the more you can eat to stay at a healthy weight,’ explains exercise physiologist Lindsy Kass. ‘The body works harder to supply muscles with blood and oxygen, which raises the metabolism and burns calories.’
So what happens to our muscles as we get older? In young adults, lean muscle mass makes up about 50% of the body’s total weight, but this gradually reduces to around 25% in 75 to 80-yearolds. Sarcopenia is the medical term for age-related muscle loss and function, and the condition is estimated to impact up to half of adults over 80.
Evidence shows that in old age, sarcopenia results in loss of mobility and increases the risk of bone fractures, heart disease, respiratory problems and reduced cognitive function. For women, there’ll be an earlier decline in muscle mass, usually after 50, says Lindsy. ‘There’s a very strong link between the menopause and losing muscle, due to the decline in oestrogen, which works to stimulate muscle growth.’
And if you’ve already reluctantly recognised the arrival of bingo wings and a flabby bottom, you’re not alone. ‘The most noticeable sign of muscle loss as we age is the lack of muscle definition the body becomes softer. And this can happen even if you’re doing the same amount of exercise as you did when you were younger,’ says Lindsy. Weak muscles and a loss of stamina are other signs of reduced muscle mass. But luckily, there are steps you can take to help maintain your strength.
Retain To Gain
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the top causes of muscle loss. Studies show that beyond the age of 30, it can reduce muscle mass in the body by 3 to 5%, per decade. ‘Just walking regularly can make a difference to muscle function,’ says Lindsy. ‘If you want to keep bulk, definition and strength however, you need to incorporate some resistance training into your routine.’
This could be using weights, working with a resistance band, or doing body-weight exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups and squats. Yoga can also be effective for strengthening muscles.
Protein is the building block of healthy muscles, so along with a balanced diet, it’s essential to get enough from your meals. Good sources are poultry, eggs, fi sh, and low-fat dairy, while plant-based protein sources include soy, beans, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds. But how much should we be eating for optimal health? UK guidelines recommend 45g of protein a day for women. ‘But this is fairly low,’ says Lindsy. ‘If you’re over 50, you could up your daily intake to 1.3g of protein per kg of your body weight, or even 1.6-1.8g if you’re exercising regularly.’
Rest And Recover
Good-quality sleep allows cell regeneration to take place, so it plays a crucial part in muscle recovery. ‘When they are worked, muscles gain microscopic tears in the fi bres, and most of the healing and rebuilding which then grows the muscles happens when you sleep,’ explains Lindsy.
Enough rest is also key for muscle performance. ‘A younger person can train hard every day, but try this when you’re older and you’re more likely to get a muscle injury or feel fatigued,’ says Lindsy. ‘Factor in recovery days between intense exercise and prioritise stretching to keep length on your muscles, so that they don’t overstretch and tear.’ If on one day you do weight-training, try a yoga or pilates class the next day.
Tone And Sculpt Your Arms
Banish bingo wings and get great defi nition with these fi ve moves to work your arm muscles.
With your back facing a chair, rest the heels of your hands on the edge of it, knees bent. Keep spine straight and your bottom close to the chair. Inhale to lower your bottom down, pointing elbows directly backwards. Exhale and tighten your abs as you push back up, straightening your arms. Aim for three lots of 10 reps, with a minute’s rest between each set.
Standing with your feet hip-width apart, hold a dumb-bell in one hand. Extend your arm up to the ceiling, then bend your elbow and slowly lower the dumb-bell so it hangs behind your head. Keep your arm close to your ear. Repeat 10 times and then again 10 times on the other side.
TIP! Make sure you don’t over-arch your back.
Press-Ups On Knees
Begin on all fours with your hands out wide and knees under your hips. Inhale to lower your chest between your hands, with abs tight and back straight. Exhale to push back up. Try three lots of 12 reps.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumb-bell in each hand and raise to head height. Lift the weights up together above your head. Lower back down to shoulder height. Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding dumb-bells in front of your thighs, palms facing up. Exhale to curl the weights to shoulder height. Do three sets of eight reps, with 30 seconds between each.