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Never Too Late: Building Muscle and Strength After 60

Retirees, take note and flex that bicep: 2017 can be the year you start building muscle again. Repeated research has shown that, through weight training, men and women in their 60s and beyond can grow muscles as big and strong as an average 40-year-old.

This is possible despite the age-related changes that begin around middle age, when metabolism slows, muscle mass shrinks, and hormonal and neurological responses decline.

“Yes, you can put on lean muscle mass as you age,” said personal trainer Jennifer Oestreich, supervisor of the Wellness Center at Mariners Hospital [1], which offers fitness memberships, group classes, personal training and other wellness activities to the Upper Keys community.

But patience and perseverance are part of the equation, she added. “The timing is usually longer to regain and build strength because everything else is more sluggish. You have to work a little bit harder and a little bit longer.”

The UAB Center for Exercise Medicine [2] at the University of Alabama has carried out many studies showing that people in their 60s and 70s, who were supervised in a weight-training program, were able to build muscle and strength.

Rebuilding Muscle Fiber

Older people who do resistance training are building muscle in almost the same way younger people do. The resistance during weight training creates “micro-tears” — or tiny tears — in the fibers of the muscle. Micro-tears comprise a vital part of muscle building.

“During the recovery process, the body starts to heal the micro-tears in the muscle fiber and uses the protein we eat to aid in the repair and growth of the muscle,” Ms. Oestreich said.

Younger people can create new muscle during this process, but seniors who have lost muscle mass can only strengthen their remaining muscle fibers, according to research at the UAB Center. But the outcome is the same: larger and stronger muscles.

The key for seniors, research has found, is a consistent and progressive approach. Ms. Oestreich, who earned a master’s degree in human performance and health promotion at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., offers some tips for seniors to get started on a muscle-building exercise routine:

For information on Baptist Health fitness classes, click here [4].