What if I told you there was a simple, zero-cost, and proven effective way to delay aging? It’s true. There is a powerful age-defying tool lurking in your quads, glutes, and biceps: muscle building.
Muscle loss is a hallmark of aging that is rarely discussed. Technically called sarcopenia, dwindling muscle begins in our thirties. Diminished muscle mass affects not just physical abilities, but also mood, immune system function, and even our lifespan. Regular muscle-building exercises will improve immunity, calm anxiety, fight depression, boost metabolism, build bone density, and help you recover from illness sooner and live longer.
Am I losing muscle?
A regular scale and BMI won’t tell you how much of your body weight is muscle. Your doctor’s office or local fitness center might have bioelectrical impedance, DEXA, or other technology that can pinpoint body composition. While less accurate, at-home body fat scales can give you an idea of your lean body mass. Easier still, if you are over 25 and not physically active, you can safely assume your muscle mass could be better.
How much is enough?
The best news may be that you don’t need to bulk up or spend hours pumping iron to build muscle. Mounting evidence shows that “exercise snacks” –brief bouts of strength-training activities – make a meaningful difference in muscularity. For people just starting, five minutes twice daily of strength-building movement is as good as hitting the gym. Clinical trials often use only body weight and no special fitness equipment to investigate and show the benefits of exercise.
Nutrition – why muscles won’t grow themselves?
There’s a little more to maintaining muscle than pumping iron or exercising. You must supply your nascent brawn with the raw materials to create a new mass. Resistance training causes microscopic tears in muscle tissue. Muscle building occurs when those tiny tears repair in the days following your workout. The body creates enough new tissue to heal the healthy damage and a little extra for good measure. The net gain of the new muscle depends on optimal protein intake. Plan meals and snacks to achieve at least 1 g of protein per kg of body weight or roughly ½ g per lb of body weight. For example, a 150-lb person would need about 75 g of protein daily to prevent muscle loss. For bonus points, timing your exercise snacks shortly before your actual workout will stimulate muscle growth more efficiently, as exercise and protein intake are synergistic.
5 minutes, twice daily
Do as many repetitions as you can in the time allowed. Use a chair for balance if needed. Gradually incorporate handheld weights, resistance bands, or other equipment over time to keep each interval challenging.
- Squats – 60 seconds
- Standing calf raises – 60 seconds
- Push-ups – 60 seconds
- Plank – 60 seconds (or work your way up to it)
- Stair climbing – 60 seconds
Don’t have stairs? Try jogging on the spot, skipping rope, or even old-school jumping jacks.
Building muscle mass will improve your health and ability to enjoy the activities you love.