It is possible to regain muscle after age 50, although it’s a lot harder than it is in your 20’s!
Muscle loss and osteoporosis are two of the typical hallmarks of bodies over age 50. As we age, muscle mass decreases at surprising rates. A 60-year-old person can lose as much as 10 pounds of muscle mass each decade.
The good news is that if you’re over 50, lifting weights can win the battle against aging-related muscle and bone loss. Medicine & Science In Sports & Exercise looked at whether older people can reverse the process of muscle loss. They found that among more than 1,300 adults over the age of 50, muscle content could be increased by an average of 2.5 pounds in just five months.
Not only did strength training reverse age-related muscle loss, it actually built lots of new muscle! The greater the intensity of a weight lifting program, the more dramatic the outcome. Lifting weights also helps keep bones strong, and wards off osteoporosis.
Since strength, function, and balance are so crucial to preventing falls, a solid strength training program makes sense for folks older than 50.
Here are three tips for regaining muscle after age 50:
- Strength workouts (ideally lifting weights) should focus on the major multi-joint movements like squats, deadlifts, rows, chest presses, core work, and overhead press. It’s fine to add in single-joint moves like bicep curls, triceps, hip abduction/adduction, and tiptoes, but the big multi-joint moves should form the foundation of your strength work.
- Retirees and baby boomers typically have an easier time maintaining muscle mass with less work performed more often. A 20-something body will build muscle mass with lots of sets performed at medium-high intensity, with 4-7 days rest in between “body part” workouts. A body over age 50 will generally do better with fewer sets performed every other day.
- Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle. Often seniors begin eating less as they age, and this can diminish their daily nutrient intake. To find your bare-minimum suggested protein intake, take half your bodyweight in grams (i.e. a 160-pound person should try to eat at least 80 grams of protein per day). Best sources of muscle-building protein are whey, eggs, fish, lean meats, and poultry.
Here’s some information about how strength training helps seniors live longer.
If you’re over age 50 and interested in getting stronger and gaining muscle, we have an amazing track record of success with training seniors. You don’t have to be young to be healthy! Contact Basics and Beyond for information about personal training for seniors.