Your immediate reaction to the idea of building muscle after 60 may be to totally reject the idea. You might think you can’t build muscle this late in the game. (Wrong!). You might hate the idea of doing any form of resistance training required. Perhaps you loath the idea of resistance training of any kind. Maybe you are so repulsed by the idea you feel like it would suck your will to live! Even if all that is true, you’ve read this far and I hope you will continue to read about some powerful reasons for WHY old dudes like us should endeavor to build some muscle.
Why Build Muscle After 60?
To start with, LIVE LONGER AND BETTER. Various research studies have shown that strength training helps older people live longer and with a better quality of life. For example, a study published in “Preventative Medicine” researched people, over a 15-year period, who died after age 65. They used data collected by The National Health Interview Survey then used the death certificate data. Only 9% of the people reported they did some type of strength training regularly, at least two times per week. Those people had a 46 percent less risk of early death than those who didn’t do strength training. They were also 41 percent less likely to have a cardiac-related death and 19 percent less likely to die from cancer. The results held true even if those who did strength training engaged in smoking or alcohol use. Research has also shown that lifting heavy weights over time not only helps maintain bone density but causes new bone growth. And it helps strengthen the integrity of joints and helps maintain and improve overall balance which tends to deteriorate as we age due to lack of activity.
The average 30-year-old will lose about a quarter of his muscle strength by age 70 and half of it by age 90. Dr. Robert Shreiber, an instructor at Harvard Medical School says, “Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional.”
So, if living a longer life with a significantly improved, overall quality of life sounds good, read on. There is more!
More Benefits to Building Muscle
When you build muscle you use more calories and burn more fat. You see, muscles burn energy. Fat stores energy. As your muscles grow your metabolic rate increases. So, even when you’re sitting on the couch binging your latest Netflix series, if you’ve built muscle, you are burning more calories. Nice, huh?
Your balance will improve, big time! If you’re past 60 and have not been strength training or balance training, you are probably experienced a loss of the ability to balance that you never even had to think about in your younger years. Maybe you’ve even fallen because you lost your balance. My mother-in-law who is in her late ’80’s has fallen many times. I’ve had to pick her up a bunch of times. She’s even fallen, literally, flat on her face. Each time that’s happened she winds up with 2 black eyes and, a totally bruised face. She’s never done any kind of exercise for balance or anything else. My 94 year old dad walks with a walker, but he’s become all hunched over because of it. Balance, like so many other things as we age, is a “use it or lose it” deal. I can only imagine how humiliating it would be to fall and break something while heading to the bathroom in the middle of the night. “How did you break your hip?” Would you rather reply, “Awe I broke it playing ultimate Frisbee with my grand kids.”; or, “I fell down going potty in the middle of the night.”
Strength training can help avoid injuries. As your core and your legs strengthen your bones ligaments and tendons strengthen and come back to life.
Building muscle for men over 60 helps even normal, day-to-day activities get easier. Have you had trouble opening your bottle of martini olives? Or, maybe you have one of those contraptions that opens jars for ladies or for guys who aren’t strong enough anymore. Wouldn’t you like to carry 2 bags of groceries up the stairs without huffin’ and puffin’ or losing your balance?
Research has shown that weight training can reduce your risk of heart disease, by improving cardiovascular function and improving blood chemistry.
Building muscle helps improve coordination. When muscles contract, they stimulate the nervous system, which enables the muscles to fire. Resistance training increases these nerves’ firing rate, which allows you to better coordinate movements. Would you like to be able to shoot some hoops with your grandson and not miss the hoop and the backboard? How about kick the soccer ball around with your grand kids? That’s when your grand kids can’t wait for you to come visit so they can play with you! Guys, that reason alone is a motivator for me.
“I don’t want to get all bulked up.”
Oh my gosh! I have actually heard guys say that. I hope YOU haven’t said that. If you did I’m about to offend you. That is SO lame! That’s an excuse, not a reason. You would have to be incredibly dedicated and intentional, consistently over time to develop anything that could be considered bulk.
More likely, you think, if you’ve never done much strength training in the past, at this stage of life, it’s too late to build muscle and acquire strength. That, I’m happy to say is NOT the case. If you’re in your sixties or beyond, you can build muscle. Anyone who tells you it’s not possible is proven wrong by many scientific studies. Zig Ziglar would have said to that person, (in his thick Southern drawl), “That’s stinkin’ thinkin’ and you need a check-up from the neck-up!”
“What kinds of resistance training are there?”
- Free weights – These are barbells and dumbbells.
- A barbell is usually between 5 and 6 feet long and weighs 45 pounds before putting any other weighs on it.
- A dumbbell is like a short barbell. They are usually 4 to 5 inches long and most commonly held by one hand for various exercises.
- Machines – There are countless types and styles of weighted machines for a multitude of various exercises. In many cases machines can facilitate safer weight training because of the assistance they provide. Often times older men prefer machines to free weights. I recently watched a documentary with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now in his 70s prefers machines to free weights for many exercises.
- Resistance Bands – These are kind of like huge rubber bands. A little different from free weights, bands maintain resistance for the entire movement of each exercise. There are some advantages to this in both efficacy and safety. I just ordered a set of bands and am going to go through a 6-week routine with them.
- Your own body weight – Common exercises are push-ups, pull-ups and lunges
- Medicine Balls – There are various kinds of exercises with medicine balls that are effective in developing power. Power is the combination of strength and speed.
If I have been successful in persuading any of my readers that building muscle for men over 60, or for any other age, has huge payoffs for a longer life with a higher quality of life, the next step will be either:
- How to get started, or
- How to begin to move to the next level.
I’ll address those two topics in my next post. Thanks so much for reading! – Glenn