Mus­cle mass needs at­ten­tion as you age

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - YOUR HEALTH -

Q: How can I avoid putting on excess weight as I get older? Re­gards, Mer­ri­lyn

A: Most peo­ple will tell you that you have to lose weight to be healthy, but I be­lieve the op­po­site is true; you have to be healthy to lose weight (or main­tain the weight that is right for you).

This means tak­ing care of your­self – nour­ish­ing your body with nu­tri­tious whole foods and avoid­ing pro­cessed foods, get­ting hon­est with your­self about how much al­co­hol and caf­feine you drink, mov­ing your body reg­u­larly, and man­ag­ing your per­cep­tion of pres­sure and ur­gency (stress).

Af­ter the age of 30 we be­gin to lose mus­cle mass as we age, un­less we do some­thing to main­tain (or prefer­ably build) it.

Our ra­tio of mus­cle to fat mass greatly im­pacts our meta­bolic rate. If you have a higher pro­por­tion of mus­cle mass, your body uses more en­ergy (calo­ries) sim­ply to sus­tain these mus­cles – and this can ul­ti­mately lead to less body fat be­ing stored.

So em­brace some kind of re­sis­tance train­ing to main­tain or build your mus­cle mass. Not only can it help you main­tain a weight that is healthy for you, but it helps to main­tain the body’s func­tion­al­ity and pro­tect­ing our joints, lig­a­ments and bones.

This doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you have to go to the gym. Pi­lates is a great form of re­sis­tance train­ing and yoga uses your own body weight as re­sis­tance.

Gar­den­ing, walk­ing, car­ry­ing gro­ceries or chil­dren, climb­ing stairs and farm work all con­trib­ute to mus­cle build­ing.

Don’t avoid move­ment – look for more op­por­tu­ni­ties to move through­out your day.

Q: Would it be OK to do high­in­ten­sity ex­er­cise three times a week as long as we un­der­take other restora­tive ac­tions (like med­i­ta­tion, breath­ing ex­er­cises, re­lax­ation time) to bring bal­ance? Kin­d­est, Sarah

A: The types of move­ment that are ben­e­fi­cial for a per­son can be very in­di­vid­u­alised so it’s dif­fi­cult for me to pro­vide a yes or no an­swer.

It can de­pend on what the rest of your day looks like – let’s say you sleep eight hours a night, you med­i­tate for 20 min­utes in the morn­ing and then you do your high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise for 40 min­utes. What do the other 15 hours of your day look like? If you spend most of your day stressed or in a rush, the in­tense ex­er­cise will just be an ex­tra 40 min­utes that you are in what I like to call the ‘‘red zone’’ (sym­pa­thetic ner­vous sys­tem dom­i­nance).

If this is the case for you, then I would en­cour­age fo­cus­ing on gen­tler move­ment such as yoga, tai chi or walk­ing. If this doesn’t ring true for you, and you feel en­er­gised and up­lifted at the end of your high-in­ten­sity ex­er­cise and you love do­ing it, that’s great – keep go­ing with it. In­ter­val train­ing is a bet­ter choice for main­tain­ing mus­cle mass and us­ing body fat than a straight out high-in­ten­sity workout.

To help guide move­ment habits, I en­cour­age peo­ple to think about what they want from it – you want to have a func­tional body that al­lows you to move through your day with ease, you want to have the strength to carry your gro­ceries and your chil­dren (or grand­chil­dren), you want to have the flex­i­bil­ity to bend down and tie your shoelaces, and you want to feel up­lifted, not de­pleted.

❚ Dr Libby is a nu­tri­tional bio­chemist, best-sell­ing au­thor and speaker. The ad­vice con­tained in this col­umn is not in­tended to be a sub­sti­tute for di­rect, per­son­alised ad­vice from a health pro­fes­sional. Join Dr Libby in Christchurch for one week­end to change your life: Novem­ber 25 and 26. More info at dr­libby.com

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Do some re­sis­tance train­ing as you age to main­tain or build mus­cle mass.

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