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Maintain Muscle Mass Now More Than Ever

While staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, it might be tempting to eat a diet of comfort food and skip the exercises.

Yet maintaining your muscle mass is important as we age, and it’s particularly vital during this time of self-quarantine.

Age-related muscle loss, known as sarcopenia, is a part of growing older that begins at age 30. Between 5-13% of people age 60-70 and between 11-50% of those age 80 and older are affected by sarcopenia.

Muscle loss can increase the risk of having a low-trauma fracture, such as a broken hip, and can impact your ability to recover from illness. The good news is that you can rebuild some of your muscle mass with some simple lifestyle and diet changes.

  • Use your muscles.
    • If you have a regular routine at the gym, you don’t have to sacrifice exercise altogether. Even a 30-minute daily routine at home can be beneficial. In the morning, stretch for 10 minutes. At lunch, take a walk for 10 minutes. Following dinner, use light weights or stretch band for 10 minutes.
  • Some exercises that are easy to do include: (Click here to download suggested exercises.)
    • Heel raises
    • Squats
    • Side Kicks
    • Hip extensions (kick to the back)
    • Marching, standing or sitting
    • Sitting, bend and straighten knees
    • Hamstring curls
    • Bicep curls
    • Overhead press
    • Rows (squeeze shoulder blades together)
    • Shoulder extension.
  • Eat balanced meals and limit your snacks in between.
    • Choose protein rich food like chicken, turkey, white fish, oily fish (like salmon), tuna and eggs. Your body breaks down protein into amino acids, which it uses to build muscle.
    • Instead of white, refined grains that lack vitamins and fiber, try to get 6-11 servings of whole grains like long-cooking rice or oats.
    • Fresh or frozen vegetables can supply vitamins and minerals your body needs.
    • Fresh fruit is best, with frozen as a good alternative. Canned fruit in light syrup or water is not as good but is OK.
    • Pick milk, yogurts, cheeses and cottage cheese that low-fat or fat-free.
    • Save cookies, cakes, pies, ice cream, juices and rich desserts for special occasions.
  • Sleep
    • Your body regenerates while you sleep. Do your best to get seven to nine hours each night.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
    • Drinking alcohol can make you dehydrated and affect muscle function.
    • Women should have no more than one glass of alcohol a day, and men should have a limit of two.
Sources : North Oaks Health System Physical Therapist Keri Thornton; Cleveland Clinic; Harvard Medical School