How Can Old Men Increase Muscle Mass?
As you age, you gradually lose muscle mass. An analysis of survey data published in the "Journal of the American Geriatric Society" indicates that 45 percent of male participants age 60 and older showed signs of moderate sarcopenia, or loss of muscle mass. The good news is that lifestyle changes can help increase your muscle mass and strength, improving the quality of your life -- and allowing you to keep doing the things you enjoy as you get older.
Muscle Mass and Aging
There are multiple causes for muscle loss in senior men; declining testosterone levels, lack of exercise and nutritional deficiencies all play a role. Although some loss of muscle mass and strength with age is inevitable, starting a strength-training program and improving your diet can reduce your rate of loss and enhance muscle mass, no matter your age. Check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Work with a qualified trainer to set up a program appropriate for you.
In general, a program to build muscle mass for seniors is similar to that for younger people who are not conditioned for exercise, although elderly individuals may have to make some modifications. The American College of Sports Medicine, or ACSM, recommends two to three days of strength training per week, incorporating a variety of exercises that work the major muscle groups. You should start with very light resistance and keep the number of exercises and sets to a minimum. Each set should have 10 to 15 reps. As you get stronger, you can slowly increase resistance, as well as the number of sets and exercises.
Because seniors are more likely to have joint and muscle pain after a workout, allowing adequate recovery time is essential. The ACSM recommends resting at least two to three minutes between sets -- and taking off at least two days between strength-training workouts. If you experience post-workout pain, reduce the resistance or repetitions the next time. Remember to breathe during your workout, as holding your breath while you're lifting weights can increase your blood pressure.
Due to various factors, such as reduced appetite or limited resources, protein consumption often declines with age, which can contribute to muscle loss. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that older adults may need to consume more than the RDA, or recommended dietary allowance, to maintain and grow their muscles. Good sources of protein include lean meats, poultry, eggs, beans, nuts and seafood. Seniors can also become deficient in vitamin D, which plays a role in muscle function. As adequate levels of vitamin D may help combat muscle loss, you might want to consider taking supplemental vitamin D. Ask your doctor or dietitian if a supplement is appropriate.
- Journal of the American Geriatric Society: Low Relative Skeletal Muscle Mass (Sarcopenia) in Older Persons is Associated with Functional Impairment and Physical Disability; I. Janssen et al.
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: Advantages of Dietary, Exercise-Related, and Therapeutic Interventions to Prevent and Treat Sarcopenia in Adult Patients: An Update; D. L. Waters et al.
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Medicine: Quantity and Quality of Exercise for Developing and Maintaining Cardiorespiratory, Musculoskeletal, and Neuromotor Fitness in Apparently Healthy Adults: Guidance for Prescribing Exercise; American College of Sports Medicine
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Food and Nutrition for Older Adults: Promoting Health and Wellness
- United States Department of Agriculture: ChooseMyPlate.gov: Protein Foods
- Journal of Aging Research: Nutrition and Sarcopenia: A Review of the Evidence and Implications for Preventive Strategies; Sian Robinson et al.
- Aging Well: Nutrition’s Role in Sarcopenia Prevention; Becky Dorner and Mary Ellen Posthauer
- Exercise Prescription: Weight Training for Specific Populations: Older Adults
Joe Miller started writing professionally in 1991. He specializes in writing about health and fitness and has written for "Fit Yoga" magazine and the New York Times City Room blog. He holds a master's degree in applied physiology from Columbia University, Teacher's College.