Healthy Muscle Aging
Healthy muscle aging is a goal that focuses on mitigating age-related reductions in muscle mass and function with the objective of preserving independence, quality of life, and general physical function.
Healthy Muscle Aging falls under theHealthy Aging & Longevitycategory.
The natural process of aging leads to a loss of muscle mass and strength. In severe cases, this manifests as sarcopenia, which can result in impaired physical function, a loss of independence, and lower quality of life. Healthy muscle aging is concerned with mitigating unfavorable changes in muscle quantity and quality and preserving physical performance to maintain a satisfactory quality of life.
The main way to assess healthy muscle aging is through tests of muscle strength and physical performance. Some common tests include grip strength, gait speed, the chair stand test, and the timed-up-and-go (TUG) test. Secondarily, body composition may be assessed using tools such as dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) or bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).
Staying physically active is pivotal to healthy muscle aging. Lifelong performance of regular exercise is associated with an improved preservation of muscle mass and strength, and physical inactivity is associated with an increased risk of sarcopenia.
The type of exercise performed is also profoundly important. High-quality evidence indicates that resistance exercise is the most potent intervention for improving muscle mass, muscle strength, and physical performance in older adults. Even in older adults who perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise per week, a lower risk of sarcopenia, more muscle mass, and better physical performance was found in those who performed resistance exercise twice per week.
A variety of supplements have been studied for healthy muscle aging, often in combination with a resistance exercise intervention. Some of the most notable are creatine, protein (such as whey protein, soy protein, or casein), essential amino acids, leucine, hydroxymethylbutyrate (HMB), omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.
Largely consistent evidence from observational studies indicates that higher adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with better physical performance and a lower risk of sarcopenia, and the same goes for higher intakes of fruits and vegetables in general. In contrast, higher adherence to a Western diet is generally associated with impaired physical performance.
Among the macronutrients, protein is the most notable due to its role in stimulating muscle protein synthesis and thus preserving muscle mass. Moreover, older adults display an impaired anabolic response to protein ingestion, so it’s critical to get the details of protein intake right to maximize its benefits. The available evidence indicates that older adults should consume 1.2–2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (g/kg) per day, evenly distributed across multiple meals containing ≥ 0.4 g/kg, to support healthy muscle aging.
Obesity, a low BMI, smoking, insufficient or excessive sleep, and lower blood vitamin D levels have all been associated with an increased risk of sarcopenia. Therefore, maintaining a healthy body weight, sleeping 6–8 hours per night, not smoking (or working toward quitting), and getting enough vitamin D in the diet and regular sunlight exposure are all important for supporting healthy muscle aging.
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