What Happens to Your Muscles As You Age?
Al is a 55-year-old high school science teacher. In his youth, he was fairly active. He enjoyed cycling, hiking, and playing basketball. His frequent physical activity meant that he had significantly defined muscle mass and his heart was in great condition.
However, when he hit middle age, Al began to notice that he couldn’t do the same level of physical activity that he had in the past. He began to lose muscle definition. Additionally, he now notices that he occasionally trips or falls more frequently than he once did. This concerns Al since he continues to stay active, taking walks and cycling on a regular basis.
Al makes a visit to his doctor, who explains what happens in the muscles as you age. Muscle tissue decreases and slows in growth. The fibers of muscle tissue also grow smaller and grow tougher, with differences in fat deposits. Muscles also become less flexible, which can make physical activity difficult.
All these muscle changes can have significant effects on your physical ability. For example, you may notice that you have more difficulty with balance and coordination and become less flexible than you were in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. All these muscle changes are natural consequences of aging, making it difficult to build muscle even if you are exercising regularly.
How Can You Build Muscle After Age 50?
Even though the loss of muscle tone is normal after age 50, it doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do about it. Under his doctor’s advice, Al makes a plan to change some aspects of his diet and physical activity to improve his muscle health.
For diet, Al makes a goal to increase his calcium and vitamin D intake. These nutrients are important for bone and muscle health, and even more so as people age. There are many ways to get them in your regular diet, as well as supplements on the market to make it even easier. Good dietary sources of calcium and vitamin D include fish, eggs, dairy, broccoli, kale, and soy. Spending time outside in the sun is also a good way to increase your vitamin D levels.
Another dietary change that can help you regain muscle tone is limiting alcohol consumption. Substances like tobacco and alcohol can have a detrimental effect on muscle mass, so it’s a wise idea to avoid them.
It is also important to continue to get healthy amounts of physical activity. In particular, gentle weight training can help you regain your muscle mass.