‘Age is just a number’ is a cliche, but it applies when it comes to working out; age is no excuse to not have some sort of fitness regimen.
I get asked quite often by older folks if they can still achieve fitness goals and I explain that while it would be tougher at an older age, it is still achievable.
As you get older, starting as early as your 30s you begin to lose muscle. At first it happens so slowly that you don’t notice it. I just turned 35 and I haven’t really noticed it. However, as the years pass, the loss of muscle mass accelerates. As if that wasn’t enough, you also start losing strength and this occurs even faster than your muscle loss; fat begins to infiltrate your muscles.
Sounds bad? It is.
This process leads to reduced physical function and a lower quality of life, maybe even disability and early death if unchecked.
Fortunately, you don’t have to sit by and watch this decline take place. On the contrary you can and should do something about it.
It is harder to build muscle after 35. You don’t have the benefit of youth on your side anymore. But harder does not mean you can’t do it. It doesn’t even mean you have to train excessively, or spend hours a day in a gym. Sure, you have to challenge your muscles, but the crucial thing is to train smart.
There are a few things that aren’t the same when you get older and want to build muscle. Recovery is one of them. You probably don’t recover as quickly from workouts. However, recent studies show this might not be that relevant to strength training and you don’t have to worry that your ability to recover from your training will hold you back.
Hormones are another thing. Your anabolic hormones aren’t what they used to be. As we age, the hormones that control our muscle mass like the growth hormone testosterone in men and estrogen in women, decrease. There are things you can do to slow this process down, one of which is living a healthy lifestyle. Poor health accelerates the decline. Exercise including strength training and a good diet are essential parts of that healthy lifestyle.
Building muscles after 35
The same basic principles for building muscle and getting stronger still apply after 35.
You need to challenge your muscles by forcing them to do something they are not used to doing. To build muscle and become stronger you have to work your muscles harder than before.
You accomplish this by gradually increasing how much weight you use. Pick a pair of heavier dumbbells, add a small plate to the bar or move the pin on the machine to a heavier setting. You can also try to do one more repetition with a certain weight. However you go about it, you must strive to do a little more, lift a little heavier. If you are an older person who is starting a fitness regimen, remember to get clearance from a healthcare professional.