We know that exercising is an important part of staying healthy, especially as you age. In general, bone mass peaks in our 30s, which means we can begin to lose bone as we enter our late 30s and early 40s. 1 Similarly, age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, can cause inactive people to lose between 3-5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Active people will also lose muscle, but at a decreased rate. 2 Decreased muscle mass can increase your risk of falls and fractures, which, combined with decreased bone strength, could lead to serious injuries. 3 To help you protect your health at every age, read our top tips for building muscle mass and protecting bone density.
Create Healthy Eating Habits
Food is the fuel for your muscles and bones, so power up with a healthy diet. Fill your plate with lean proteins, whole grains, veggies and fruit. Save cookies, high-fat potato chips, and juices as an occasional treat. By cleaning up your eating habits, you’ll give your body the nutrients it needs to combat bone and muscle loss. 4
Practice Strength Training
Strength training, or resistance training, strengthens your muscles and can improve your body’s ability to convert protein into energy. 2 If you’re new to strength training, focus on using your bodyweight so you can master your form and build up a base level of strength. When practicing with bodyweight, work your way up to performing three sets of 10-15 repetitions for each movement. Once you can easily get through your bodyweight workout, you can move up to using small weights or resistance bands. 5 It’s always a good idea to check with your doctor, however, before beginning any new exercise program.
If you’re already practicing strength training, pay close attention to your body during each workout and continue increasing your weight or repetitions as you become stronger. Aim to do strength training three or four times a week on nonconsecutive days to give your body time to rest and recover. 4 4 If lifting weights or using resistance bands isn’t your forte, try swimming or bicycling - those activities can help you build and maintain your muscle mass. 1
Perform Weight-Bearing Exercises
Weight-bearing exercises encourage your body to work against gravity. These kinds of exercises can slow mineral loss, which helps you maintain bone density. Luckily, there’s a variety of exercise options, including hiking, walking, climbing stairs, and dancing. By blending both strength training and weight-bearing exercises into your weekly workouts, you can help protect both your muscle mass and bone strength.
Stretching has many benefits for people of all ages, and consistent practice can release muscle soreness, increase muscle control, circulation, and improve balance and coordination. 7 To get the most benefit out of this practice, perform gentle, slow stretches and avoid bouncy or painful movements. 5 Get started with stretching by practicing some yoga for bone health - by the end of the routine, you’ll be feeling lengthened, loose, and relaxed.
Talk with Your Doctor
If you’re concerned about losing muscle mass or bone density, schedule a visit with your doctor. Together, you’ll be able to assess your current strength level and determine the best diet and exercise plan for your specific needs. While you’re there, be sure to ask about any other concerns you have, like your heart health.
READ MORE: How To Talk To Your Doctor About Heart Health
Maintaining or building muscle mass and protecting your bone density is critical to healthy aging. Using these tips (and your doctor’s advice), you can combat the risks of muscle and bone loss.