Healthy & Active Ageing

Healthy and active ageing is closely linked to a lifestyle that includes regular physical activity paired with wise food choices. Good nutrition and exercise work better to slow down age-related health issues when both are a routine part of life. The right intake of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein and fibre are essential for normal body functions, from maintaining muscle to improving digestion.
Eating a variety of whole foods is recommended, yet it is not always easy to have a balanced diet. Recent research has shown that nutrients important for good health might be lacking in the diet of older adults1. A feeling of fatigue can be an early sign that the body may be lacking in a certain nutrient or nutrients (however if symptoms persist, it is advisable to speak to your healthcare professional). Other times, issues with weakness, mobility and bowel symptoms may arise.

The following nutrients play an important role in helping the ageing body to continue to perform optimally:

  • Protein: contributes to the growth and maintenance of muscle mass. With age, there is a reduction in muscle mass and therefore an increased requirement for dietary protein. A loss of muscle tone and feelings of weakness may be signs of an inadequate intake of protein, as well as insufficient physical activity.
  • Vitamin D and calcium: essential nutrients that work in harmony to help maintain healthy bones. However, body stores of vitamin D may be low in older people and this can impair the ability to absorb calcium.
  • Vitamin C: contributes to collagen formation for the normal functioning of cartilage, which is a key component of joints. Together, muscles, bones and cartilage play a key role in daily activities.
  • Water: Adequate fluid intake is needed, as water is involved in virtually every metabolic process. Water contributes to the maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions, and therefore good physical and mental performance.

Dietary fibre: required to support and maintain a healthy digestive system.

Key Fact

After the age of 50, the average individual may lose 1% of their muscle mass each year2

Maintenance of muscle mass and strength is fundamental to avoiding frailty. To see the benefits on maintaining muscle mass, a combination of adequate protein intake spread over the day, as well as resistance exercise training (using all the major muscle groups) is required.3,4

Key Fact

Muscle strength has been shown to decrease by approximately 20-40% from the age of 20 to 70 years, and by above 50% by 90 years.5

A decrease in muscle function can impact greatly on the independence of an older person, therefore maintaining muscle mass as well as strength is essential. A low muscle mass, as well as low strength and/or muscle function is known as sarcopenia6.

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics. Australian Health Survey: usual nutrient intakes, 2011-12. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics; 2015. Available online at: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.008main+features12011 -12 (accessed May 2016).
2 Thomas DR. Loss of skeletal muscle mass in ageing: Examining the relationship of starvation, sarcopenia and cachexia. Clin Nutr. 2007;26,389–399.
3 Bauer J, Biolo G, Cederholm T, et al. Evidence-based recommendations for optimal dietary protein intake in older people: a position paper from the PROT-AGE study group. J Am Med Dir Assoc 2013; 14: 542-559.
4 World Health Organization. Global recommendations on physical activity for health 65 years and above. Geneva: WHO; 2011. Available online at: http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/recommendations65yearsold/en/ (accessed May 2016).
5 Cruz-Jentoft AJ. and Morley JE. Sarcopenia. Chichester, West Sussex. Wiley-Blackwell, 2012. P155
6 Cruz-Jentoft, Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosis. Age and Ageing 2010; 1–12


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