Updated: May 29, 2020
Written by: Matt Hedmen
With aging, there is no Park or Neutral option: we’re either in Drive or Reverse. Aging is similar to driving up a hill, a hill that starts with a gradual incline but eventually progresses to a steep climb. When driving uphill, have you noticed that, when taking your foot off the gas, the car moves backwards? Our bodies work the same way. We’re either choosing to progress (pushing on the gas) or, by not pushing the gas, we’re choosing to age.
The manifestation of aging is easily seen in two structural areas and one functional area. The structural areas are muscle tissue and bone; the functional area is strength. As we age, all three decline. The decline starts sooner than many would think, too. Stopping this decline requires intentional action, and the action and effort are worth the benefits...who wants to get old?
Strength is important, as it underlies the ability to meet the physical demands of life. It is one of the biggest factors needed to maintain balance when moving, to physically keep up with kids, to perform yard work, and to complete other common physical tasks. Unfortunately, about 50% of people start losing strength... before 40 years old
(1) The rate of strength loss becomes a steep decline after 50 years old, and the concerning rate of loss continues until death. It’s estimated that adults lose about 1-2% percent of strength every year between 50 and 60 years old, with the rate increasing to about 3% every year thereafter
(2). The aggressive strength loss after 50 years largely explains why people struggle to maintain independence one or two decades later.
Bone strength declines a little later...but not much later. Men start gradually declining, on average, around 45-50 years old, with the decline remaining gradual for the rest of their lives (1). Women start declining about a decade earlier. The concerning part is that women, after menopause (50-55 years old), lose bone density at a much faster rate. Postmenopausal issues with maintaining bone is the reason why women are at a much bigger risk for osteoporosis (low bone density).
Like strength, the amount of muscle starts decreasing during people’s 30s. The initial decrease is at a very minor rate. The decline in muscle becomes noticeable, similar to strength and bone, after 50 years old (3,4). Lower body muscle is most affected. Those muscles, in the legs and hips, play the most important role in daily functions (walking, running, climbing stairs, etc.).
With no intentional effort to stop this, most people will start becoming weaker and less muscular before their 40th birthday, will have noticeably weaker muscles and bones shortly after age 50, and will start struggling with function after age 60.
This pattern, though, is NOT inevitable. Strength training increases strength, muscle size, and bone strength...regardless of age (5). Your rate of physical aging is a choice. Choose strength training; choose to stay young.
Burr, D.B. (2009). Muscle strength, bone mass, and age-related bone loss. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 12(10).
Keller, K. & Engelhardt, M. (2013). Strength and muscle mass loss with aging process. Age and strength loss. Muscles, Ligaments and Tendons Journal, 3(4), 346-350.
Janssen, I., Heymsfield, S.B., Wang, Z.M., & Ross, R. (1985). Skeletal muscle mass and distribution in 468 men and women aged 18-88 yr. Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(10), 1342.
Abe, T., Sakamaki, M., Yasuda, T., Bemben, M.G., Kondo, M., Kawakami, Y., & Fukunaga, T. (2011). Age-related, site-specific muscle loss in 1507 Japanese men and women aged 20 to 95 years. The Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 10(1), 145-150.
Winett, R.A. & Carpinelli, R.N. (2001). Potential health-related benefits of resistance training. Preventive Medicine, 33(5), 503-513.
ARTICLE SUBMITTED BY:
Tom Moreland, CEO of REVITUS.FIT
Questions or comments to: TOM@REVITUS.FIT