The average adult in the US loses about six pounds of muscle per decade after the age of 30. Which means, on our 60th birthday, we’ve lost 18 pounds of muscle relative to our 30-year-old self. We generally don’t recognize this, and rarely does anyone talk about it, because the muscle loss doesn’t show up on the scale; it is masked by the fat gain that frequently accompanies aging.
The question is, can a 60-year-old regain some or all of that lost muscle? The answer is a resounding: Yes. Multiple research trials continually demonstrate that seniors can add three to three and half pounds of muscle (and boost resting metabolic rate by 7%) in the first three months of strength training. Interestingly, the rate of muscle growth for men and women is very similar. Men gain more absolute muscle because their body mass is larger; but in relative terms, women gain just as much, just as fast.
In these studies, the three months of strength training in previously sedentary older adults resulted in a 50% increase in strength. And the muscle gain doesn’t stop after three months. I recently received an email from a 71-year-old client whose Bod Pod results indicated that he gained five pounds of lean muscle from age 69 to 71; and this particular client had been training at Discover Strength for nearly eight years. The average male over 50 loses one pound of muscle per year and in a two-year period, this client managed to gain five pounds of muscle.
Take Home Message: We can get/grow bigger and stronger muscles well into our 60’s and 70’s.