Many people set aside the necessary funds for retirement, but forget to invest in their health and fitness for physical independence as they age. Ask yourself this question, how much can you enjoy your retirement years if you have a lot of money, but your physical health is poor?

If you’re over 50, it’s time to start seriously investing in a health and fitness plan that will help protect you from age-related mental and physical ailments. Starting in their 40s and for some in their 30s, a natural process of muscle loss called sacopenia begins to take place in your body. You can lose 1 to 2 pounds of muscle each year starting in your 40s, and this process accelerates with age if you don’t slow down.

Sacopenia can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, insulin resistance, increased risk of falls, and loss of independence. These are the most important things that are normally associated with the aging process. It is not a pretty image. However, you can now begin to combat sacopenia and, in some cases, reverse this process through diet and exercise.

Increasing protein intake and strength training are two of the most effective ways to combat muscle loss. While 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) has been the normal recommendation for daily protein intake for years. Now, many new studies show that 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.45 to 0.68 grams per pound) may be more beneficial for building, maintaining, and reducing muscle loss.

Strength training, also known as weight lifting, has been shown to be the best form of exercise to build muscle and strength, helping you maintain your independence as you age. The good news is that it is never too late to start. People over the age of 90 have been shown to gain muscle and strength with a properly designed weightlifting program. However, the sooner you start, the better. I recommend that you strength train 2-3 times a week starting in your 40s.

Now that you see that investing in your health and fitness program is just as important as investing in your retirement account, where do you start? I suggest you find a nationally certified fitness professional and have them design a personalized strength training program for you.