How to build back muscle mass lost during the pandemic

Strong muscles are essential for everyday life. Yet for many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our muscle mass.

Sally Squires, who writes the Lean Plate Club blog, said physical activity decreased about 60% during the pandemic because of social distancing, and sedentary living increased by about 42%.

It means “we really have to make a change,” said Squires, who offered some advice on building back muscle you may have lost.

One of the first myths to dispel, she said, is that muscle mass is mostly important to older people. It isn’t.

“It’s important for everyone,” she said. “I think this is something that a lot of people don’t understand.”

By not maintaining muscle mass, Squires said, a person will set themselves up for a whole host of illnesses, including premature heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, cognitive decline and depression.

Squires said dedicating about 15 minutes a day, three days a week to rebuilding lost muscle will do it. And she said a person’s routine doesn’t have to be based around lifting barbells in a gym.

Muscle can be built in a variety of ways. Even if you don’t have weights, for instance, try using cans of food, which weigh about one pound each.

“You want to start at a level that you can do, but then gradually work up,” Squires said. “If you’re at 5 pounds right now, maybe in a few weeks you can be at 10 pounds and then 15. You just gradually increase.”

And if you don’t want to use weights, you can try resistance bands. “You just want to do things that are going to work your core, your muscles in your legs and your arms,” she said.

And start your routine in a place that is comfortable, Squires suggested.

“You’re doing repetitions of a few minutes at a time. It actually doesn’t take that long. You can work your upper body in 15 minutes one day, and the next day your lower body.”

While a lot of people believe large quantities of protein, or protein supplements, are required to gain muscle mass, Squires said most Americans have enough protein in their daily diets to do the trick.

“We know that protein is important, so if you’ve done a workout at a gym of any kind, it’s a good time to have a little bit of protein because protein does help build muscle. The good news is that most Americans get plenty of protein, so you don’t have to reach for a pro bar or supplement.”

She suggested milk, nuts, a piece of cheese or some jerky.

And supplements such as Creatine and L’carnitine are not necessary to build muscle, Squires said: “Most people don’t need them.”

Most importantly, Squires said to keep at it and stick with it.

Glynis Kazanjian

Glynis Kazanjian has been a freelance writer covering Maryland politics and government on the local, state and federal levels for the last 11 years. Her work is published in Maryland Matters, the Baltimore Post Examiner, Bethesda Beat and Md. Reporter. She has also worked as a true crime researcher.

This content was republished with permission from CNN.

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