Healthy people in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s and 90s can build substantial muscle mass, strength, and mobility through lifting weights, according to a new study. Contrary to popular belief, muscle is still plastic in older adults, allowing it to respond to resistance training and increasing in size and strength. This groundbreaking research shows that aging doesn’t have to limit physical performance.
Observing how muscle tissue constantly turns over throughout life, a study conducted by Maastricht University recruited 29 participants aged 65 to 75 and at least 85, none of whom regularly weight trained before. After a 12-week period going through gym machine workouts three times a week, the strength and muscle mass of the older old adults (aged at least 85) had bigger relative gains than the younger group, adding an average of 11 percent to muscle mass and 46 percent to strength in comparison to the 10 percent more muscle and 38 percent more strength observed in the 65- to 75-year-olds.
The oldest group showed improved mobility and strength, which is important in preventing frailty, loss of physical function, and improving overall quality of life. However, it’s important to note that the study involved supervised training, making it necessary for individuals interested in resistance exercises past their 60s to consult with their doctors and seek out specialized programs.
This study is a strong indication that there is no age limit to improving muscle and serves as a reminder to many that starting as early as possible and being consistent with training can prevent muscular decline. It’s never too late to start exercising. For older individuals, a conversation with their healthcare provider and finding programs matched to their needs is a good step in the right direction.