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Looking For Energy? It May Be in Your Muscles

New AARP study of adults 50 years or older see themselves in good health, but want more strength and energy.

Older Women Excercising
May 5 2016

Do you find yourself needing an extra cup of coffee these days, or taking a nap to get an extra energy burst? As we age, having energy throughout the day can involve some extra steps. And a new survey by AARP and Abbott shows you’re not alone.

Abbott and AARP recently surveyed 1,480 Americans 50 years and older to better understand how they view diet and health issues as they age, including muscle health. The survey asked adults to rank specific elements of their health. A majority of the respondents viewed themselves in good health, yet 50 percent wished they had more strength or energy to participate in the activities they enjoy.

The good news is that with some simple lifestyle changes, you can be on your way to long-lasting strength and energy, showing age isn’t a limiting factor. Consider this your energy intervention.

1.  Activate energy with activity 

Going old school on this tip. You may recall from physics class, "a body in motion, stays in motion." Think about how that can apply to our daily life? The National Institute on Aging reports that older adults who are inactive, can lose endurance, strength, balance and flexibility – all key elements for a healthy life. 

It is recommended that adults do some exercise for at least 30 minutes a day; for those aged 65 and older that are generally fit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

Luckily, the AARP-Abbott survey found that many adults exercise multiple times a week, which is a good first step to keeping healthy.

Consider walking, swimming or cycling – all improve strength, flexibility and balance. For those looking for a more ambitious goal – did you know that people 40 years and older make up 40 to 50 percent of the people who finish marathons within their gender group, proving age does not dictate how active we can be.

AARP study found 74 percent of older adults exercise weekly

2.  Mind your P’s

Portion and protein, that is. What’s on your dinner plate can impact how you feel and how active you can be. A well-balanced and complete diet with nutrients that maximize strength and energy includes fruits and vegetables, as well as lean meats, dairy and other protein-rich foods.

As we get older, our bodies absorb nutrients like protein differently, and protein is critical in helping rebuild muscle. While we often know the types of food that are good, not as many know how much of each they should be eating. In the AARP-Abbott survey, 62 percent of adults believed they get enough protein, but only 17 percent of people knew the actual amount. The recommended daily amount of protein is roughly 53 grams for a 150 pound adult; however, research shows older adults need nearly twice this amount to help preserve their muscles.

"We hear about having a variety of foods on our dinner plate, but it’s just as important to have the right amount of those foods and nutrients, particularly protein, to help fuel the body inside and out," said Tiffany DeWitt, RD, a registered dietitian at Abbott. "Making small daily nutritional changes can make a big impact on living a healthier, more active life."

For people looking to fill nutrition gaps in their diet, consider including supplements like Ensure with up to 20 grams of protein.

 Protein is very important in Your Diet After Age 50


3.  Muscle up

Muscles play a big role in your body – from your balance and posture to your body’s metabolism. Adults naturally start losing muscle around age 40, and this number can accelerate with an illness and injury. This accelerated muscle loss can make recovery more difficult or impact how much energy you have. Despite these facts, only 31 percent of those surveyed were very or extremely concerned about losing lean muscle at this stage of life.

"Investing in the health of your muscles now will help you continue to do the things you love and live a healthier, more active life at any age," said Dewitt. "While muscle loss will happen naturally as we age, the good news is that it’s reversible with the right balance of proper nutrition and exercise."

To read more about how people 50 years and older are maintaining their health with age, see our AARP-Abbott survey summary. 

AARP Survey on muscle health