Staying stronger for longer – Our expert health secrets

Did you know? One of the most surprising features of our bodies is that we start to lose muscle mass and strength from our mid 30’s and this continues throughout our entire life. But the good news is, you can dramatically slow down the rate at which your body loses muscle through a healthy lifestyle.

We caught up with an expert in the field, Professor David Cameron-Smith, to chat about the latest findings and what positive changes you can make today.

About our expert:

Professor David Cameron-Smith of University of Auckland research areas include the importance of nutrition in the maintenance of optimal health in ageing and in regulating the function of muscles to promote muscle growth and minimise fat gain.

Stiffer and slower vs. stronger for longer

Ageing typically makes most people feel stiffer and slower as their muscles start to lose tone and strength. “It’s no doubt we feel our aging bodies through our forties and beyond and healthy eating and physical activity provides the greatest opportunity to engage actively and functionally in the world around us for longer,” said Professor Cameron-Smith. “There’s never a better time to make healthy changes than through your mid-life. It’s never too late to start and any change will bring positive benefits, that you will feel virtually immediately.”

Along with obvious benefits from a healthy lifestyle such as weight management, feeling more energetic and supple, there are added bonuses such as improved sleep, a major concern for many older New Zealanders. However, we are now able to drill down to more specific recommendations on preserving muscle including advice on particular foods, nutrients and types of activity.

Pep up with protein

Your body is changing significantly during your mid-life and growing scientific research points to the power of protein to preserve your muscles for longer. “Increasing the high quality protein in your eating plan helps you feel fuller for longer and assist healthy weight management. But the secret benefit is the role protein plays in the “anti-aging” effect, helping muscles constantly repair and recover and slow down deterioration,” said Professor Cameron-Smith.

Harness new habits

It’s important to find new strategies to add protein to breakfast, snacks and lunch, as the majority of people consume the bulk of their intake at the evening meal. “It’s also vital to time your high quality protein foods after exercise, particularly strength or resistance training, to give your muscles the best chance to repair, recover and regenerate,” said Professor Cameron-Smith. And it will help you bounce back the next day and feel motivated to do it all again!

Get down to the dairy

Dairy foods, like milk, yoghurt and cheese, along with dairy protein powders, offer the widest choice of foods naturally rich in high quality protein that promote muscle repair, recovery and regeneration. Professor Cameron-Smith advises, “It’s ideal to aim to have a serve of dairy or high quality protein within 2hours of exercising as that’s when your muscles need it the most. Your muscle soreness and fatigue can be dramatically reduced.” Now doesn’t that sound good?

Keep active in many ways, every day

You don’t need to join a gym to maintain muscle, but it certainly can help. We know that strength or resistance training must be incorporated in your week in order to stay stronger for longer. Why not try a new activity tailored just for you and do more as part of daily life too, like walking to the post office, gardening or vacuuming.

“Make sure you see an exercise physiologist or appropriately certified trainer before commencing a new fitness kick, especially if you’ve been inactive,” advises Professor Cameron-Smith. If you have aching, sore joints that don’t recover well after exercise, make sure you discuss this with your health professional to investigate any underlying medical causes.

Excited to Learn More?

Just click on the links within this article for more in-depth advice and tips or browse our archives. And start your journey to staying stronger for longer today.

Making change takes time and effort, so you need to know that it’s going to be worth it. Fortunately, you don’t have to take our word for it – you can share your own experiences and learn how others have discovered benefits like increased strength, better mobility and sustained energy here on GrownUps.

By Emma Stirling APD