Many older adults make the mistake of exercising less than they did when they were young. But we should know better. In fact, you could be a strong argument that exercise becomes even more important as you get older.
“When we are teenagers and 20 years old, building and maintaining muscle mass is easier than ever,” explains Jack McNamara, M.Sc., CSCS, of TrainFitness. “With the right choice of exercise, training intensity and diet, our muscles are prepared to effectively grow in efficiency, size and strength. But most people, especially those with no previous lifting experience, will begin to lose muscle mass by the age of 30. “
The medical term for what Bailey describes is sarcopenia, or the gradual loss of muscle with age. You may not care so much about cultivating a bodybuilder’s body after 60, but sarcopenia can lead to a sharp drop in the quality of life. Balance suffers, bones and joints weaken, and everyday tasks like climbing stairs can quickly feel like a challenge. Like taxes, sarcopenia is inevitable – at least to some extent.
“Muscle loss is a natural part of the aging process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it,” says Josh Schlottman, CSCS. For example, a study published in PLOS One found that a six-month resistance exercise training program “significantly reversed” the muscle aging process.
When we talked to fitness experts about the best way to start building muscle for older adults, a few recommendations kept coming up. To start, don’t push yourself too hard. It is important to start with exercises, weights, and routines that are appropriate for your body and your health.
Rachelle Reed, Ph.D., Senior Director of Health Science & Research at Orangetheory Fitness, recommends that older adults set SMART goals for themselves. “SMART stands for specific, measurable, accessible, relevant and timely,” she says. “When starting a new exercise routine, remember to be kind to yourself and set reasonable goals for yourself. Instead of going upside down, start slowly and in a way that feels compatible with your schedule.”
But what about certain exercises?
We all know that muscle is built primarily through weight lifting and resistance exercises, but many of the trainers and doctors we’ve spoken to say that it is a mistake for those over 60 to focus too much on a particular muscle group . “I recommend reducing the total volume per muscle group you train each day and combining multiple muscle groups in one workout,” says Dimitar Marinov, MD, Ph.D. “This way, there is no danger of over-exercising a single muscle group and injuring yourself. Instead, you do 1-2 exercises per muscle and either work half or all of your muscles in one workout. You can do this 2-3 times a week, which compensates for the reduced volume per session. “
For the record, it refers to compound exercises, and this approach is beneficial to the elderly for several reasons. By spreading the load, you reduce the risk of injury while exercising more muscles. Additionally, compound resistance exercises are also great for increasing testosterone levels, which is essential for building and maintaining more muscle.
A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that just a month of strength training increased testosterone levels in male participants by an average of 36%. Of course, women can also benefit from an increase in testosterone when it comes to muscle maintenance and growth. “Hormones that interfere with our ability to build and maintain muscle, such as testosterone, decrease by about 1% per year after 40. Performing compound moves stimulates the body to increase the production of these hormones and alleviate the decline with age.” continues Jack McNamara.
When you’re ready to get started, read on to learn about some of the best compound exercises for more muscle mass after 60.
Pull-ups are a classic exercise – and for good reason. You’re targeting the lats, deltas, triceps, back, and core muscles at the same time, using nothing but a bar to hold on to and your body weight. Even better, you can target different muscle areas depending on your grip. A tight grip will focus more on your biceps and outer lats, while a wider grip will work your traps and inner lats more. And for some great workout tips, don’t miss out on the secret side effects of lifting weights for the first time, Science says.
A careful squatting routine can improve balance and posture, strengthen your core, improve bone density, and even prevent dementia! Squats aren’t always easy and getting the right form is notoriously difficult even for some experienced exercisers, but the leg muscle building benefits of this exercise make it an essential part of any workout.
“This exercise is key to building muscle in your legs and lower body. For those over 60 who have problems with their balance or coordination, hold onto the back of a chair for balance. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and toes pointing straight ahead. Lower your hips toward the floor by sliding them back as if you were sitting down. Try to lower your legs low enough so that they are parallel to the floor. Keep breathing throughout the movement as you come back to the starting position, “suggests Josh Schlottman.
The rowing machine can be quite intimidating for beginners to fitness, but it’s ideal for older adults looking to build muscle for several reasons.
“One of the best exercises for building and maintaining muscles over 60 is rowing,” said Caley Crawford, NASM-CPT, director of education at Row House. “People often associate rowing with cardio, but it’s also a great strength-building exercise because it uses over 85% of the body’s muscles. Rowing is gentle and uses 85% of the body’s muscles, which means it puts more stress on bones and strengthens them. Because that Rowing is done from a seated position and people are strapped into the kicks, there is also no risk of falling during the exercise. This helps offset the effects of bone loss and diseases such as osteoporosis. And unlike a spinning wheel or elliptical, the erg allows full freedom of movement and promotes flexibility and joint health. “
A study published in Biomedical Materials and Engineering even reports that rowing can help improve elbow, shoulder, and knee movements.
A regular bench press really only works the pecs, which is why an incline bench press is a better choice for those over 60. By lifting at an incline of 30-45 degrees (this varies slightly depending on your height and height), you train your entire upper chest, anterior deltoids, and triceps.
But remember: don’t overwhelm yourself with the weight. Start lightly and build your max reps over time. Also, your eyes should be right under the bar when you first sit down. And for more ways to motivate yourself to hit the gym, don’t miss out on the secret tricks to getting yourself to exercise, experts say.