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Why Age is Not an Excuse and How to Start Training?

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If we look at the average data, there is some truth to these beliefs . Every decade after thirty we lose on average 5% of muscle mass., 10% of testosterone and also bone mass. We gain fat and lose heart capacity.(1)

Of course aging plays a role in this physical decline, but it is much smaller than what people believe.

As we will see in this article, the idea that we do not stop training because we get old, but rather that we get old because we stop training, is quite true.

Why Age is Not an Excuse and How to Start Training?

Metabolism and age.

The largest study to date on the evolution of metabolism with age was recently published , and the general conclusion is that between the ages of 20 and 60, basal metabolism remains almost the same, adjusting for lean mass.(2)

A marked slowdown is seen after the age of 60, but not before in most cases. With few exceptions, blaming your slow metabolism for fat gain is not a valid excuse.

Muscle gain and aging.

Another popular belief is that it is difficult to gain muscle mass with age, but this is not true either.

In this study , for example, no differences in muscle gain were observed in people of different ages undergoing the same training. Adults ages 30-39 gained the same muscle as teens ages 18-19.

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The researchers’ conclusion is that age does not limit the response to strength training , at least until age 39.


And what happens after 40 ? Is it really the end of youth for our muscles?

Luckily not.

One study evaluated the quantity and quality of muscle tissue in athletes between 40 and 81 years old, and found no correlation between muscle size and age .

He concludes that his results contradict the common belief that muscle and strength are reduced solely by age . “On the contrary ,” he says, ” these reductions appear to be the effect of chronic disuse, rather than aging. “

Many other studies, both in men and women, also do not find relevant differences in the gain of muscle mass in young people of 20 years old compared to older adults over 60.

And there is no age limit after which it is impossible to gain muscle mass. We can improve strength and muscle even after the age of 90.(3)

In fact, a recent study does not find differences in strength and muscle mass gain in people over 85 years old compared to people between 65 and 75 years old.(4)

The summary would be, therefore, that we lose much more muscle by stopping using it than by getting older .

Recovery and age.

As we saw, there are few differences in the response to strength training between young and old, but is it possible that as we age we lose recovery capacity ?

It seems not.

This study compared the results of different metrics associated with recovery in a group of young men (18-30 years old) with respect to an older group (40-59 years old).

During the two days after a hard strength training session, no relevant differences were observed in different markers of muscle damage, inflammation or pain. The elderly recovered with the same ease as the young .

And what happens in the case of women? The same.

This study , for example, also compared different markers of recovery in menopausal women (and over 40 years old) with young women without amenorrhea (20-40 years old).

The conclusion was that neither age nor menopause seem to impair recovery after strength training.

Immune system and training.

Aging affects our entire body, and the immune system is not exempt.

However, once again, this degradation is due more to inactivity than age.

This  study  evaluated the immune function of 125 amateur cyclists, aged between 55 and 79 years. He then compared it with that of a sedentary group of the same age and with that of a group of young people, between 20 and 36 years old.

Although age is noticeable,  many functions of the immune system in older athletes were more similar to those of younger people . Their thymuses, for example, release almost the same number of T cells as in young people.

Similar studies show that older people who stay active are better protected against infections, and  a few weeks of training are enough to see improvements in the immune system.

Bottom Line.

All of the above does not imply that age does not matter or that our general function does not degrade as we age, but we have much more control over this process than we think .

When we see statistics of the ravages of aging we must remember that they are simply averages, and the best way to avoid the fate of the average person is with training .

Physical inactivity and the absence of strength training influence muscle loss more than age.

The sooner you start the better, but it’s never too late . If you start training at age 50, you can achieve more strength and muscle mass than you did at age 30. Regardless of your current situation, in a few years you will be glad you started today.

+3 Sources

FitnessQuora has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, educational research institutes, and medical organizations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and up-to-date by reading our editorial policy.

  1. Decline in VO2max with aging in master athletes and sedentary men;
  2. Daily energy expenditure through the human life course;
  3. High-intensity strength training in nonagenarians. Effects on skeletal muscle;
  4. Muscle Mass and Strength Gains Following Resistance Exercise Training in Older Adults 65-75 Years and Older Adults Above 85 Years;

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This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1,2,3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific researches.



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