Growing Older with health and vitality: nexus of physical activity, exercise and nutrition

Bridge2Food_Photo_Oliver_Witard_StirlingThe preservation of skeletal muscle mass and strength with advancing age are critical aspects of ageing with health and vitality says Oliver Witard, senior lecturer in health and exercise science at the University of Stirling. Physical inactivity and poor nutrition are known to accelerate the gradual age-related decline in muscle mass and strength—sarcopenia—however, both are subject to modification.

Future physical activity/exercise guidelines need to make specific reference to resistance exercise and highlight the benefits of higher-intensity aerobic exercise training, alongside advocating older adults perform aerobic-based physical activity and household tasks (e.g., carrying groceries). In terms of dietary recommendations, greater emphasis should be placed on optimal rather than minimum protein intakes for older adults. Indeed, guidelines that endorse a daily protein intake of 1.2–1.5 g/kg BM/day, which are levels 50–90 % greater than the current protein Recommendation Dietary Allowance (0.8 g/kg BM/day), are likely to help preserve muscle mass and strength and are safe for healthy older adults.
Being considerate of factors (e.g., reduced appetite) that may preclude older adults from increasing their total daily protein intake, we echo the viewpoint of other active researchers in advocating that protein recommendations for older adults be based on a per meal approach in order to maximize muscle protein synthesis (MPS). On this basis, assuming three meals are consumed daily, a protein dose of 0.4–0.5 g/kg BM should be contained in each meal. Developing simple lifestyle interventions targeted at preserving muscle mass and strength with advancing age is crucial for facilitating longer, healthier lives into older age.