Did you know that we can lose up to 8 percent of our muscle mass each decade? And after the age of 70, that loss can nearly double – up to 15 percent a decade!
There are over 600 muscles in our bodies and most of their work goes unseen. Hence, it is easy to take for granted their role in our overall health. Even the most vigilant amongst us often let exercise routines and diet fall by the wayside as work and family life as well as other priorities eat up our time. We may feel less fit as we age, but chalk it up to precisely that – the inevitability of loss of strength¹.
Awareness of your ‘muscle age’ will allow individuals to pay attention to nutrition and exercise to build and maintain muscle performance.
Find out your muscle age
As explained by Anna Jacob, Nutrition Director of Abbott Nutrition International, Singapore, “Muscle age can be determined by performing a simple 5x sit-to-stand test and matching test time to biological age group using the Stand4Strength Muscle Age Calculator. The Muscle Age Calculator is a tool that Abbott developed as part of the 2020 #Stand4Strength campaign to raise awareness about the importance of paying attention to muscle strength by helping people determine their muscle age.”
Step 1: Choose a suitable Chair
The height of your chair should be approximately 43cm.
Step 2: Use a timer to time yourself
Sit-to-stand on both legs five times, with arms folded, as fast as you can.
Step 3: Enter your details in the Muscle Age Calculator
Indicate your age, gender and sit-to-stand time.
To motivate people to uncover their muscle age, Abbott is running a social media challenge in collaboration with local personality Zheng Ge Ping to give ten lucky winners a special #Stand4Strength kit. To participate, visit stand4strength.sg to try out the Muscle Age Calculator and share the results in a social media post tagging @ensure.sg by 31 October.
Why is it important to maintain and rebuild muscle mass?
We speak to a couple of experts: Adj A/Prof Melvin Chua of the Society for Geriatric Medicine Singapore and Sengkang General Hospital as well as Anna Jacob to find out the link between muscle mass and healthy ageing.
Q: Why it is essential to take care of muscle strength early?
Adj A/Prof Melvin Chua (MC): The weakening of muscles is not experienced by the elderly alone. Research has shown that from around age 40, individuals stand to lose up to 8% of their muscle mass each decade. The rate of muscle loss accelerates substantially after 70 years old, nearly doubling to up to 15%.
Muscle strength is one of the key indicators of our overall health, and as muscle mass declines, you may face a higher risk of disability and even loss of independence later in life. Therefore, we need to start taking active steps to build muscle strength early.
Anna Jacob (AJ): Being aware of our muscle health early on in life is crucial to take prompt action to reduce the risk of muscle loss with age. Muscle age may not necessarily be equal to your biological age. An individual in their 40s may have a higher muscle age in the 50s if they take longer than average to complete the 5x sit-to-stand test. Therefore, it is essential to start taking care of muscle strength early to prevent pre-mature muscle loss.
Q: What are the implications if we don’t act and build muscle strength?
MC: Muscle is vital for overall health. It plays a crucial role in maintaining our body’s structure, movement, balance, and posture. It also has a role in maintaining our metabolism. Lower muscle mass has been linked to adverse health outcomes, including increased likelihood of illness and injuries, decreased physical mobility, and loss of independence.
Furthermore, there is strong evidence suggesting a relationship between muscle and immune function. Muscles produce and release compounds that play an essential role in the proliferation and activation of some immune cells. Data suggest that loss of muscle mass is associated with lower immunity levels and thus an increased risk of infections. Immunity is affected if an older adult loses more than 10 percent of his lean body mass. Hence, maintaining muscle mass as we age is essential for overall health and ensuring quality of life.
Q: How can we ‘age-proof’ our muscles and slow muscle loss? And what is the role of diet and exercise in maintaining or rebuilding muscles?
MC: While muscle loss is a natural part of ageing, the good news is we can slow down the rate of muscle loss. Nutritional intervention paired with regular exercise particularly resistance training, can help to preserve muscle mass and maintain muscle strength.
Making adjustments to your daily wellness routine now, such as by incorporating a healthy diet rich in protein and key nutrients and vitamins such as Vitamin D, can contribute to better nutritional levels and slow down muscle loss.
AJ: As we age, ensuring complete and balanced nutrition remains fundamental to overall health and well-being, but there is a need to increase protein intake to help maintain and rebuild muscle mass. It is now well known that older adults require nearly 50% more protein than younger adults.
HMB (hydroxymethylbutyrate) supplementation may be useful in slowing muscle breakdown as the level of HMB in the body declines as one ages. The role of HMB in muscle health has been studied extensively and, the evidence points to HMB’s ability to build and preserve muscle in ageing and during illness. HMB is present in small quantities in food, however, obtaining an effective quantity from diet alone can be difficult.
At Abbott, one key research platform is muscle health. A recent innovation that provides nutritional support to age-proof muscle is our complete and balanced oral nutritional supplement Ensure which now contains HMB as well as adequate amounts of high-quality protein to support building muscle mass and strength
¹Janssen I et al. Journal of Applied physiology. 2000;89(1)81-88.
Images: Abbott Nutrition International Singapore and Envato