The older you get, the more critical it is to engage in strength training and weightlifting exercises. In this blog, we discuss the age-related changes that occur to the musculoskeletal system, how strength training can mitigate these changes, and the use of healthcare professionals for guidance and safety.
Muscle and Bone Changes With Age
With age, your body experiences physiological changes that impact your muscles and bones. After age 30, you can begin to lose around 3%-5% of muscle mass per decade. Continuous loss of muscle mass can lead to a diagnosis of sarcopenia. Sarcopenia can result in weakness, impaired mobility, and an increased risk of falls. Additionally, as you get older your body composition tends to change, favoring increased adipose tissue and less lean muscle mass.
With regard to bone density, your bones naturally break down and rebuild themselves daily with new bone. Between the ages of 25-50, bone breakdown tends to equal bone formation, so bone density stays relatively constant. After age 50, bone loss starts to accelerate due to a faster rate of bone breakdown. Osteopenia refers to lower than average bone density, which can progress to a diagnosis of osteoporosis where bone density is significantly low. Those with osteopenia or osteoporosis are at an increased risk of fractures – which can happen from trauma such as a fall or sometimes during daily activities depending on the severity of the bone loss.
The Impact of Strength Training
Even though these changes are a natural part of aging, it doesn’t mean you can’t halt the progression of muscle and bone loss. In fact, with proper strength training, you can even reverse some signs of aging! Participating in progressive resistance training, where you gradually increase the amount of weight or resistance you are moving, will continually load your muscle and bone tissues so that they become stronger in response to the increased demand placed upon them. Making a habit of including 3-4 days a week of resistance training is important – as the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. Staying consistent with your training is even more important as you age.
For more information on different types of strength training exercises that can be great additions to a fitness program, check out our blog Functional Exercises for Everyday Life.
Follow Professional Guidance
As you age, it’s particularly important to follow professional guidance when it comes to physical activity and exercise. What your exercise program looks like may be entirely different than someone else’s program, regardless of how many similarities you share. Your previous level of exercise, current health status, existing comorbidities, medical history, and personal preference all factor into what a safe and effective fitness program looks like for you. Did you know you can consult with a physical therapist for a personalized exercise program to help you maintain muscle and bone health? Physical therapists are an excellent resource for minimizing age-related physiological changes because they are musculoskeletal experts with rigorous training in movement science and exercise prescription. They are also able to perform a thorough physical assessment and consider your entire medical history so you can be sure your program is safe for your needs. Download the OneStep app today to connect with a doctor of physical therapy licensed in your state!
What Is Sarcopenia? Aging in Motion. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Preserve your muscle mass. Harvard Health Publishing. Accessed July 29, 2022.
Roberts S, Colombier P, Sowman A, et al. Ageing in the musculoskeletal system. Acta Orthop. 2016;87(sup363):15-25.
St-Onge MP, Gallagher D. Body composition changes with aging: the cause or the result of alterations in metabolic rate and macronutrient oxidation? Nutrition. 2010 Feb;26(2):152-5.
Osteoporosis: What You Need to Know as You Age. Johns Hopkins Medince. Accessed July 29, 2022.