By Matthew Johnson, Pharm.D. Student.
Magnesium is a mineral involved in many bodily functions such as muscle and nerve regulation, blood sugar control, energy production, and the making of proteins.1 Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the average daily amount needed to meet the body’s needs of a dietary substance for most healthy people.1 The RDA for magnesium varies by age and gender. For women 19-30 years old it is 310 mg (men 400 mg). For women aged 31 years and older the value is 320 mg (420 mg for males). A deficiency of magnesium can result in seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, low blood calcium and potassium levels, and muscle contractions/cramps. Furthermore, magnesium deficiency has been linked to both lower physical activity and exercise ability.2 This is even more important for the elderly population because of the impact the aging process has on physical activity.3 Specifically, the aging population is at greater risk for magnesium deficiency than young people due to low dietary intake, reduced absorption, and a greater amount excreted in stools and urine. It is important to note, however, that excessive magnesium intake from supplements may cause diarrhea, abdominal pain, and/or cramping. Furthermore, intake of amounts greater than 5000mg per day can lead to magnesium toxicity and death. 4
The current standard of care for improving physical activity is sufficient aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.5 The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends for adults 65 years and older to do muscle-strengthening activities that work all of the major groups of muscles (hips, back, shoulders, arms, legs, chest and abdomen) on two or more days per week. Muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, resistance band usage, push-ups, sit-ups, yoga, and gardening activities such as digging or shoveling. The CDC also recommends that all adults 18 years and older get either 5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 2 hours and 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Moderate activity is a 5 or 6 on a 10-point scale in which 0 is defined as sitting and 10 is full effort activity. Vigorous activity is a 7 or 8 on this same scale.
A study recently published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at the effects of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance.3 This study only involved healthy elderly women that were involved in a weekly exercise program. There were two groups of healthy women in the study: one group received oral magnesium supplements of 900mg magnesium oxide/day for 12 weeks while the second group did not receive supplements or any other differences in treatment. The purpose of the study was to see if magnesium supplementation would improve physical performance. Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB) tests were used in part to examine physical performance. A SPPB test involves checking lower limb activities such as walking and balance. The study found better physical performance in the group taking the magnesium supplements. There were no harmful effects seen in either of the groups. One major factor that limited the results of the study was that it only included healthy elderly women that exercised and so the same results may or may not occur in populations such as adolescents, men, or people that do not exercise. A different study published earlier this year in the Journal of Sports Sciences supports the findings that magnesium supplementation can improve physical performance.6
For individuals seeking to improve physical activity, it appears that magnesium supplements in the appropriate RDA range can be taken to boost physical activity performance. Have you tried magnesium supplements before? If so, what form did you take and did you notice any differences after taking them?
- S. Department of Health & Human Services, Nation Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. Magnesium Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ Reviewed November 04, 2013. Accessed October 2014.
- Lukaski HC. Magnesium, zinc, and chromium nutriture and physical activity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(suppl):585S–93S.
- Nicola V, Berton L, Carraro S, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program:a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014; 100: 974-981.
- Kutsal E, Aydemir C, Eldes N, et al. Severe hypermagnesemia as a result of excessive cathartic ingestion in a child without renal failure. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2007;23:570-572.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical activity: How much physical activity do older adults needs? http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/everyone/guidelines/olderadults.html. Updated June 17, 2014. Accessed November 2, 2014.
- Setaro L, Santos-Silva P, Colli C, et al. Magnesium status and the physical performance of volleyball players: effects of magnesium supplementation. Journal Of Sports Sciences[serial online]. March 2014;32(5):438-445. Available from: CINAHL Plus with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed November 12, 2014.