Essential stretching exercises for senior strength
Preserving and building muscle strength is one of the things we should prepare for as we age. You either use your muscles or lose it. In fact, by the age 40, adults naturally lose 8% of their muscles every decade. By 70, the rate of muscle loss increases to about 15% which means 24% of your muscles could be gone by 70. It is therefore important to keep making your muscles work because they respond to it by getting stronger.1,2
Strong muscles help seniors maintain their independence, perform everyday tasks such as lifting grocery bags or reaching into a higher cupboard; reduce risk of falling, and improve overall balance, coordination and mobility.2
The best way to battle natural muscle decline as we age (also called sarcopenia) is by getting the right nutrition and enhancing one’s strength and flexibility. The latter can be achieved by doing regular simple stretching exercises.1,3
Seniors should try to stretch major muscles groups for at least 10 minutes, two days a week.
Moreover, they should perform flexibility exercises on all days that cardiovascular or resistance training exercise occurs, if possible. The National Institutes of Health recommend including some of these stretches in your fitness routine.3
- Neck Stretch
- Stretch the neck by slowly bringing your chin toward your chest and turning your head side to side.
- Hold each position for 15 seconds.
- Shoulder and Upper Arm Stretch
- Stretch your shoulders and arms by holding a towel in one hand over your head and letting it drape down behind your head and back.
- Grab the other end of the towel with your other hand and gently pull down until you feel a stretch.
- Lower Back Stretch
- Stretch your lower back by lying on your back, knees bent and feet together. Keep feet flat on the floor.
- Keeping knees together, lower your legs to one side, twisting your torso until you feel a stretch. Hold and repeat on the other side.
- Hip Stretch
- Stretch your hips by lying on your back, bringing one knee out to the side of your body.
- Rest your foot against your opposite leg and gently push down on the bent knee until you feel a stretch.
- Ankle Stretch
- Stretch your ankles by sitting in a chair and slowly moving your foot up and down and side to side.
- Hold each position 30 seconds and repeat on the other foot.
In conclusion, muscle loss can be slowed down by keeping an active lifestyle and consuming a well-balanced, nutrient-packed diet. It is recommended to take 3 servings of protein-rich foods found in poultry, egg, fish, milk, tofu, and nutritional supplements such as Ensure.1,2
Ensure contains high-quality protein along with nutrients and HMB, also called beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, a muscle-preserving ingredient that works with protein to help preserve muscles.
Common nutrient deficiencies that affect seniors
Getting sufficient nutrition becomes a challenge as we age. As the aging body’s calorie requirement begins to decline, every calorie consumed must be packed with nutrition in order to make the most of every meal. Unfortunately, not all adults hit their nutrient requirements due to declining food taste, blunting appetites, and difficulty in chewing or digesting. With their bodies becoming less efficient at absorbing nutrients, seniors fall short of the vitamins and minerals they should be getting.1
Here are key vitamins and nutrients the elderly should look out for and where to get the best sources.
Among the roles that calcium plays in nutrition, it’s most important function is building muscle and maintaining strong bones. Unfortunately, studies show that the elderly consume less calcium in their diets which increases their risk for osteoporosis or brittle bones and fractures. According to the WHO, women’s lifetime risk for osteoporosis fractures is closer to 40%. In contrast it is only 13% among men. Women are at greater risk because their bone loss accelerates after menopause. Prevention is possible with adequate calcium intake through good dietary sources of calcium like kale and broccoli, as well as juices fortified with calcium.1, 2
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, maintain bone density, and prevent osteoporosis. In older people, Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to increased risk of falling. Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, including cereals, milk, some yogurts, and juices. Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. However, vitamin D is found in salmon, tuna, and eggs.1
B12 is essential for creating red blood cells and DNA, and for maintaining healthy nerve function. Older people do not absorb B12 from food as well as younger people. Even if their diet contains enough, they may be falling short of it. Foods rich in B12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Talking to your doctor about whether you should take a B12 supplement is recommended.1
More than 40% of adults over age 50 don’t consume the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein from food alone. An adequate amount of protein intake with each meal—25 to 30 grams of high-quality protein—is important to help build protein and necessary for optimal muscle protein synthesis. Protein intakes at this level are particularly beneficial for older adults as a strategy to prevent muscle loss or sarcopenia, a natural process of progressive muscle loss that may begin after age 40. 3,4
Along with a balanced diet and regular exercise, nutrient deficiencies can be prevented. Ensure has a mix of what matters: high quality protein, nutrients including B vitamins, Vitamin D, calcium, and HMB or beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, a muscle-preserving ingredient that works with protein to help preserve muscles.
Changing nutritional needs of seniors
A person’s nutritional requirements change as one ages. What nutrients you needed 20, 10 or 5 years ago might be different from what you need today. This is the reason why adapting your lifestyle, counting fitness and nutrition, to your age is the most important choice to make to keep the body in top shape.1
A few factors that one should consider as one ages are:
Fluid intake is important as one ages, but many older adults neglect meeting their liquid needs in a day. Dehydration has in fact shown to have negative consequences on the elderly’s health including constipation, impaired cognitive function, falling, poor hyperglycaemia in diabetes or hyperthermia. It is thus key to including many sources of fluids everyday into your diet depending on your fluid requirements.1-2
Our metabolism naturally slows down with age hence we burn fewer calories. This also points to the need to decrease one’s caloric intake and keep a regular physical activity. Making smart nutritious choices is essential.1 According to the National Institute for Aging, people over age 50 should include key vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, Calcium, Magnesium, and Potassium in their diets.4
Did you know that you lose 8% of your muscle mass every 10 years? Age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia, affects adults age 50 and older. This decline in muscle health can contribute to fatigue, losses in strength and energy as well as poor mobility. In fact, a study shows that people can lose a lot of muscle in a short amount of time causing delayed recovery from illness, slow wound healing and reduced quality of life. The catch is to get ahead of muscle loss before it accelerates.1,3
HMB or beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, helps in keeping your muscles in balance by slowing down muscle breakdown. In fact, HMB has been shown to help preserve muscle mass in healthy older adults. HMB, along with maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in protein and exercising regularly, supports the natural balance. Ensure has HMB and protein to help rebuild muscle and strength.1,3
In conclusion, staying active, packing your diet with a variety of nutrients each day, and consciously making the right choices is the key to staying fit and healthy as one ages.