It is important for older adults to continue exercise to maintain muscle mass and appetite. (iStock)
By Heather Gillin, Texas A&M University College of Education & Human Development
As summer approaches, older adults may shy away from physical activity due to rising temperatures. However, Dr. Nicolaas Deutz says it is important for older adults to continue exercise to maintain muscle mass and appetite — the keys to increased longevity.
Dr. Deutz, director of the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity, says a decrease in activity can lead to reduced appetite and muscle loss. The appetite loss can cause some protein deficiency, leading to harmful effects like increased risk of disease or death in older adults.
“When people are not active they usually start eating less because the body does not need as many calories. But by reducing what people eat they actually reduce not only the calories, they reduce protein intake,” Dr. Deutz said.
Dr. Deutz’s recent research found that giving previously hospitalized malnourished older adults a protein/β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate (HMB) supplement reduced mortality by 50 percent.
“Older adults need not only the normal amount of protein, but they actually need even more protein,” Dr. Deutz said.
He recommends dairy products like nonfat plain Greek yogurt, which is easy to eat and contains a substantial amount of protein.
Dr. Deutz said older adults must also engage in regular physical activity to improve and maintain their muscle health to improve their longevity.
“When older individuals lose muscle mass and strength they usually become home-bound. They don’t go out, they have less of a social life, they will maybe be less hungry and less active, and that is a spiral into the wrong direction,” Dr. Deutz said.
He recommends activities like walking in the morning and using indoor exercise equipment in summer. He said the only type of activity that older adults should avoid is an activity that puts them at risk for a fall, often leading to a broken hip.
“Most older individuals that break a hip will die within a year, so it’s very dangerous. Everything that can prohibit a fall is very important, which means no slippery areas and wearing good shoes, and having strong muscles” Dr. Deutz said.
The Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity studies healthy and affected older adults to find new ways of improving health for aging populations.
Dr. Deutz said he finds individuals that participate in studies at CTRAL typically become more aware of the importance of nutrition and exercise. After some time these participants will be in better shape.
CTRAL also works across the Bryan-College Station community in nursing homes to educate older adults about how to maintain a healthy life for increased longevity.
This story by Heather Gillin originally appeared in Transform Lives.