Commentary: Why S’poreans want to spice up muscle well being as extra individuals develop into caregivers

As Singaporeans live longer, millennials and older adults must adapt to a changing role: becoming caregivers for their aging parents and family members.

It is often said, “To take care of others, start taking care of yourself.” This is especially true for those of us who have to juggle caring for elderly parents and loved ones with other responsibilities. Nurses must be advocates for their own health in order to in turn provide quality care.

While the mental and financial health of caregivers tends to be a concern, nurturing physical health is just as important.

Personal strength is very important in grooming, which means having strong muscles. For caregivers whose daily duties involve constant energy and strength to constantly lift and move patients or loved ones, prioritizing muscle health can be an essential part of their care.


Healthy muscles are important. Muscle strength is a key indicator of overall health and plays an important role in building strength, energy, immunity and bone health, which allows us to move, lift things, pump blood through the body and even help us breathe.

However, as some may experience muscle loss with age, it is important to pay attention to our muscles and ensure that we maintain our strength as we age.

Although we Singaporeans enjoy one of the longest life expectancies in the world at around 83 years of age, the years gained may not be fully achieved as more time is spent dealing with age-related health problems, with musculoskeletal problems being among the most common.

Sarcopenia, or the age-related decline in muscle mass and function, can begin as early as age 40, with up to eight percent muscle loss each decade.

In Singapore, four out of five older adults at risk of malnutrition have low muscle mass, according to the SHIELD (Strengthening Health In Elderly Through Nutrition) study conducted by Abbott in partnership with Changi General Hospital and SingHealth Polyclinics.


Age-related muscle loss can be prevented by making the right interventions in what we eat and how we use our muscles.

A balanced diet with protein-rich foods helps strengthen muscle health. As you age, you need more protein to maintain muscle mass. It is recommended to consume about 25-30 grams of protein per meal, including protein-rich foods such as chicken, seafood, eggs, nuts, beans, tofu or dairy products.

Adequate vitamin D intake can also help maintain and improve muscle function and strength. To increase your vitamin D intake, spend some time outside in the sun and add foods like fatty fish, mushrooms, eggs, or vitamin D-fortified foods like orange juice and soy milk.

Meeting your daily needs and getting enough nutrients can help you stay strong longer and maintain your strength to care for loved ones throughout the day. For older caregivers who are malnourished, taking specialized nutritional supplements can support muscle health.

Oral dietary supplements with HMB (beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate), a natural compound, have been shown to be effective in preserving muscle mass in older adults. HMB is found naturally in small amounts in some foods, but it is difficult to obtain muscle-healthy amounts from diet alone.

The SHIELD study found that older adults who took an oral dietary supplement containing HMB were clinically proven to have improved strength. Their nutritional status, physical function and health outcomes improved significantly.

Caregivers should also exercise regularly to prevent muscle weakness. An ideal exercise plan includes both aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling, or swimming, and resistance or strength training, such as lunges, squats, push-ups, and single-leg squats.

Simple daily activities like walking, climbing stairs, and lifting can also help keep your muscles active. The next time you shop at the mall, consider carrying a grocery bag or basket instead of a shopping cart.


Pay attention to how your muscles work so you can take quick steps to improve your strength.

How do you know if you are at risk of poor muscle condition? A quick and effective way is to use a five-step sit-stand test that you can perform at home to assess functional lower extremity strength, range of motion, balance, and fall risk.

To perform the test, fold your arms across your chest and move from sitting to standing and back to sitting five times as fast as possible, using a timer. helps.

After taking the test, find out your muscle age using the Muscle Age Calculator, which compares sitting and standing test times to average test times for biological age groups.

Some 40-year-olds may have muscle age in their 50s if the test takes longer than average, which may be due to poorer muscle condition.

Busy individuals, especially caregivers who often require around-the-clock care, may want to consider trying this simple assessment as a simple way to determine their risk of losing muscle mass.


To provide quality care for others, don’t forget your own health.

A proper diet combined with regular exercise can help build and maintain muscle strength, leading to a fuller and healthier life in the long run.

Take the first step today to check your muscle health and improve your diet and exercise. When taking care of your loved ones, remember that this includes yourself.

Putting yourself first is not a selfish act, especially when it comes to care.


Andrea B. Maier is the Oon Chiew Seng Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Healthy Longevity at the National University of Singapore.

Leave a Comment