Some things will simply never come to an end… like Elon Musk being in the news or the Fast & Furious franchise (filming has begun for movies 10 and 11). Another thing that never really comes to an end is our fitness journey.
Kevin Hart has a great bit that talks about a huge, muscular guy at the gym and asks, “Why are you still here? You already won.” But can you really win fitness and get to the point where you can stop training? Let’s dive in:
As far as we know, the fountain of youth isn’t a real thing. Sure, there are ways you can slow down the aging process with healthy habits, but at the end of the day, we all get a year older with every trip around the sun.
You could also go down the biohacking rabbit hole for all sorts of anti-aging protocols and supplements, but that is not what we are talking about today. Today, we are talking about the inevitable muscle mass and strength loss that comes with age.
The loss of both muscle mass and strength unfortunately accelerates as we age. According to the latest data, the rate of loss for both these metrics picks up in your 40s and only accelerates from there. When it comes to muscle mass in men specifically, the average rate of loss per decade is only 0.7% in the 50s but then balloons up to over 4% in the 60s and over 7% in the 70s.
It is important to note that for women, rates of muscle mass loss will be even higher since women naturally produce less of the hormones necessary to build and maintain muscle mass.
When it comes to muscle strength, these rates of loss are even higher. According to the data we have in men, muscle strength as measured specifically by grip strength is lost at a rate of 3% per decade in the 40s and 50s, and then a rate of over 9% and 11% respectively when a male hits his 60s and 70s.
Those may not seem like huge numbers, but they are staggering. Loss in muscle mass is a big reason why weight gain (due to a gain in excess body fat) is so much easier as we age. The more muscle mass we are able to keep on, the more anabolic we will be, meaning the more calories our bodies burn and the less likely we are to accumulate body fat.
To put it simply—maintaining muscle mass as we age is one of the best things we can do to keep our metabolic health intact, helping to stave off obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It is also a good way of keeping your hormone levels functioning properly.
But what about muscle strength? Why does that matter? Most of us aren’t trying to win any sort of strength competition into our 50s and 60s.
Well, falls are the leading cause of injury-related death among adults age 65 and older, and the age-adjusted fall death rate is actually increasing. So how can you build a hedge as you age to make sure that you are less likely to fall or experience serious injury if you were to fall later in life?
You guessed it—maintaining your strength, specifically your grip strength and strength in the eccentric, which means being able to brace yourself against the pull of gravity.
The key takeaway? You can never really “win” at fitness. Like other aspects of your health journey, the need to exercise never ends. In fact, it becomes more important as we age. And while any type of exercise is better than no exercise, the need to incorporate resistance training and prioritize protein in your diet are both incredibly important when it comes specifically to building and maintaining muscle mass.
Don’t be afraid to pick up some weights every now and then. Getting old stinks, but you can make it stink a lot less with some consistent training starting today.