Keeping your muscles healthy as you age

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Did you know you have more than 600 muscles in your body, including your tongue, heart and stomach?

When exerted, your muscles pull against your skeleton, causing your bones to become strong and durable. But a lack of exercise and nutrition can compromise your muscle strength, especially as you age.

"The average person can lose 8 percent of muscle tissue every 10 years after the age of 40," says Dr. Vonda Wright, orthopedic surgeon, medical researcher and author of "Fitness After 40." "When it comes to muscle, if you don't use it, you'll lose it."

In addition to age, a sedentary lifestyle and poor nutrition can lead to loss of muscle. Many people are surprised to learn that a sedentary person may have 40 to 50 percent body fat. On the flip side, muscle burns more calories than fat during daily activities, including sitting.

A serious, temporary illness or injury or a diet lacking proper nutrition, especially protein, can also cause a loss in muscle mass. So muscle loss is not just a concern of the middle-aged or inactive, but for anyone who wants to stay healthy and active.

To find out if your muscles are in good shape, try the push-up test. Men of any age should be able to do 11 and women should be able to complete eight. If you fall short of your goal, don't despair. You still have time to build muscle strength with these tips:

• Feed your muscle: Proteins are the building blocks of muscle. Get your protein daily from meat, poultry, fish, nuts, eggs and beans. You can also augment your diet with healthful protein and nutrition shakes, such as Ensure Muscle Health shakes, which contain Revigor (a source of HMB, an amino-acid metabolite), and 13 grams of protein to help rebuild muscle and strength naturally lost over time. They are perfect for a snack on the go.

• Get aerobic exercise: Try to get between 30 to 60 minutes of blood-pumping exercise daily to build muscle endurance. And stretch your muscles before and after to prevent

• Carry a load: Resistance training is also essential to keeping your muscles strong and limber and retaining bone density. Use weights or the resistance of your own body weight to build your strength.

"We live in an amazing time when we really are able to have some control over how we age," says Dr. Wright. "In fact, there's new evidence that boomers and seniors who exercise three to five times a week are able to retain lean muscle like younger athletes. So don't let your age discourage you from living a healthier, active life today!"

For more information about maintaining healthy muscles and to read more of Dr. Wright's tips, visit Then get started rebuilding your muscle strength. After all, this is the only body you have.


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