The new online tool empowering older Australians to combat muscle decline and reclaim vitality

Jun 23, 2023
Alarmingly, you can lose up to 40 per cent of your muscle mass by the time you turn 70. Source: Getty Images.

An innovative tool aimed at combating the negative effects of muscle decline in ageing adults has been unveiled, aimed at empowering Australians to proactively safeguard their muscle health and preserve their independence.

As individuals grow older, the loss of muscle mass not only impacts strength but also energy levels, balance, and gait, which can increase the likelihood of injuries and compromise physical abilities and independence. When it comes to muscle mass there are a number of other important factors to be aware of, some of which include:

  • Muscle mass peaks in our 30s and declines on average 1 per cent per year.
  • You can lose up to 40 per cent of your muscle mass by the time you turn 70.
  • This accelerates in our 70s, when we lose 1.5 per cent per year.
  • Reduced muscle mass results in a 2.3 per cent increase in the risk of fractures.

In an effort to combat the detrimental effects of muscle decline in ageing adults, Senior Lecturer in Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the Sunshine Coast, Dr. Anthony Villani has partnered with Bioglan to create The Muscle Mass Index which offers practical and personalised lifestyle support to help older adults improve their muscle health.

Dr Anthony Villani, who holds a keen interest in skeletal muscle health and functional status in healthy ageing, created The Muscle Mass Index alongside Bioglan. Source: Supplied.

To get a read on their muscle health, Australians simply visit The Muscle Mass Index website and enter their age, gender at birth, weight, and height.

They will then be prompted to answer a short exercise and nutrition questionnaire and to complete a physical challenge.

The Index will use this information to generate a muscle mass rating – poor, moderate or good, followed by an action plan incorporating resistance training, nutrition, and supplementation.

Villani spoke of the importance of maintaining muscle mass as we age, labelling it “an integral component of healthy ageing”.

“Depending on how physically active you are, your muscle mass is likely to peak around 30-40 years of age and then decline by about 1% annually thereafter,” he explained.

“Whilst this doesn’t sound like a significant loss, by the time we turn 70, accumulatively the average person may have lost as much as half of their muscle mass which is really problematic for health because the loss of muscle is associated with a number of age-related diseases and complications, including metabolic disease such as type 2 diabetes, frailty, falls and fractures, reoccurring hospitalisations as well as premature death.”

With her busy schedule on the road performing and long days spent on film and television sets, Brand Ambassador for Bioglan, Natalie Bassingthwaighte, is all too aware of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and the impact muscle mass can have on overall health and wellbeing.

Brand Ambassador for Bioglan, Natalie Bassingthwaighte gained a better idea of her muscle health after using The Muscle Mass Index. Source: Supplied. 

Bassingthwaighte told Starts at 60 that “muscle mass affects so much more than we think”.

“It not only affects strength and balance, it affects energy levels, and as someone with a busy schedule, who is always on the go, I need all the energy I can get,” she said.

“That’s why maintaining muscle mass is extremely important to me so that I can continue to perform at my best.”

Using The Muscle Mass Index herself, Bassingthwaighte was able to gain a better understanding of where she stood with her muscle health and was then able to identify areas she could improve.

“Whilst my muscle mass was rated ‘good’ by the Index, it has made me more motivated to continue to put in the work to maintain this rating as I age, which includes adding in more resistance-based workouts, increasing the amount of protein I consume in my diet, and to add a daily supplement to cover any gaps in nutrition,” she explained.

“The really great thing about the Muscle Mass Index is that it provides practical and personalised lifestyle support on steps you can take to improve your muscle mass.”

While the Muscle Mass Index will provide users with an indication of their muscle health and the actions they can take to ensure optimal muscle health, Villani explained some of the effective ways older adults can maintain healthy muscle mass.

“First and foremost, exercise – particularly resistance exercise is crucial,” he explained.

“It’s like the old saying, ‘exercise is king, nutrition is queen and together they form a kingdom’. So as we age, you need to be able to challenge your muscles if you want to expect to keep them, and the best way to do this is to engage in resistance exercise

“Specifically, if individuals, particularly over the age of 60, engage in resistance exercise at least 3-4 times per week, individuals will very quickly begin to see a vast range of improvements in their overall health including increases in functional strength, cardiometabolic health, mental health, improvements in overall quality of life and a decreased risk for falls and fractures.”

In addition to exercise, “there are also some important dietary factors to consider”.

“For example, dietary protein is essential for the maintenance and repair of our muscles,” Villani said.

“As we age, our ability to utilise individual amino acids from dietary protein to help repair and build muscle becomes compromised, so it’s important that we do get enough protein and that we also seek protein sources from both animal and plant-based sources to optimize our overall health.

“Other dietary considerations also include consuming at least 2-3 serves of dairy (milk / cheese / yoghurt) per day. Dairy is not only a great source of calcium, which is great for our bones as we age, but dairy is also a great source of whey protein and the ideal blend of amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) to help support muscle health as we age.

“Another important dietary consideration is fish, in particular oily fish such as salmon. Fish not only provides a great source of dietary protein, but it also provides the omega-3 essential fatty acids which are important for protein synthesis and muscle repair. We should aim to include 2-3 fish meals per week to help support muscle health.”


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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