Healthy Aging

Building muscle after 60


As we get older, our bodies undergo many natural changes that impact mobility, muscular, skeletal and cardiovascular health, not the least of which is age-related muscle loss, or sarcopenia.

Starting as early as age 30 in some cases, sarcopenia causes a decrease of up to 5 percent muscle mass per decade. While even the most physically fit individuals are not immune to sarcopenia’s various effects on the body, one can mitigate the degenerative process through physical activity.

Symptoms and Causes of Sarcopenia

  • Decrease in the body’s ability to convert protein into energy
  • Reduction in physical activity due to weakness or loss of stamina
  • Lowered hormone levels
  • Difficulty climbing stairs and keeping balance
  • Muscle atrophy and hypoplasia (decrease in muscle size and number of muscle fibers)

The greater the reserve of muscle mass, the longer it will be before sarcopenia has the potential to impair functionality. Thus, it’s imperative to maintain a daily fitness and health regimen to help repair and rebuild your muscle mass. Here are some tips:

Intake Proper Nutrients

According to the National Council on Aging, as you age, your body requires less calories, but has other nutritional needs to take into account. A balanced diet for older adults should include a variety of lean protein (including plant based sources like soy products), anti-inflammatory foods like nuts, broccoli, spinach, and blueberries, and plenty of calcium from dairy products and their alternatives. It’s also key to take daily multivitamins, and to hydrate by drinking water throughout the day (The Mayo Clinic recommends 1 gallon for men and approximately 3/4 of a gallon for women).

Increase Reps

You don’t have to overexert yourself by lifting heavy weights. It’s actually more beneficial to increase repetitions instead of weight, and perform an exercise until you feel fatigue. Lauren Lobert, a physical therapist and the owner of Apex Physical Therapy, told Aaptiv “…this means breaking away from the traditional three sets of ten model. Instead, think more about doing enough repetitions to get your muscles pretty tired, where you actually need to take a break before being able to do more.”

Take Time to Recover

Research suggests that an older person’s muscles tends to recover slower after a workout then their younger counterpart. This means that older adults run the risk of overtraining if they aren’t spacing out their workouts with rest days in between, or alternating their resistance and strength training with cardio workouts.

To better alleviate muscle strain, older adults can also engage in active recovery, which encompasses lower impact activities such as walking, yoga, stretching, and foam rolling.

Try Something New

Participating in different types of workouts or fitness classes is a good way to stay engaged with an active aging lifestyle. If you’re afraid to try something new or feel you don’t have the necessary resources available, there are a ton of different ways to get out there and get active- you could use a fitness coach app to guide you through different exercises, or look up free or low-cost classes offered by your local community or senior center. This is also a great way to meet like-minded people to socialize and work out with.

In short, proper nutrition and fitness are considered some of the best remedies available for degenerative muscle loss associated with age. Though the tips above are intended as a resource for those looking to pursue a healthier lifestyle, it’s always best to consult a doctor before starting any new fitness program.

May 30 is National Senior Health and Fitness Day. For the last 25 years, the organizers behind this special day have been encouraging older adults to participate in healthy activities. With over 100,000 individuals expected to participate this year, the focus on promoting wellness amongst the aging population is higher than ever. What you waiting for?

This article was developed by Aaptiv, providers of an audio-based fitness app with the goal to improve the lives of millions through fitness.



58 responses to “Building muscle after 60

  1. Hello, I’m just 60, active all my life (cycling, swimming, hiking). At 58, I started running every day, trail /interval training. Heavy cardio, improved quickly, giving me confidence to search limits. I lived than on a very low protein diet, almost veganistic. Now, since the beginning of may, I started doing calisthenics. From 0 pull ups to 7 pull ups- in one month. Muscle is building up rapidly as a respons to intensive training ( 5- 6 x per week) and intake of whey proteins.

  2. I am 77 yrs old and workout once a week. The once a week allows me to recuperate. I lift as heavy as I can for 10 – 12 reps but I only do one hard set for each exercise. My exercises are squat, lateral raise, dumbbell floor press, dumbbell bent row, dumbbell tricep extension, dumbbell curls and wrist/forearm curls. One hard set lets me go as hard as I can. I try and eat 2000 calories a day and with whey powder consume 185 grams of protein a day. I am 5′ 11 and weigh 170 pounds

    1. I’m 64 and I, like Hamilton, continue to lift weights, but I put an emphasis on less weight, more reps and varied lifts, always changing movements two times a week. The exception to that is Front Squats and Over Head Squats. I tend to go heavy in that area… (Heavy is very subjective. I’m 5’8 and 165 lbs.). Other than that I row like a crazy man and ride the stationary bike and change those workouts constantly five days a week. “Change” seems to work for me. No constant wear on any one joint or muscle group. I’ve done this for my entire life and everything works fine. This may help others who worry about tracking lifts, etc. I don’t do that. Just move…

  3. Well I turn 60 in a few weeks, have been weight training for 47 years, 6 days/wk and always one of the biggest and strongest in any gym I went to. Well until damaged my wrist and tore my proximal long head bicep tendon where it transitions into muscle in mid Dec, it cannot be repaired (apparently age related) so have to live with a bicep deformity. I still only missed 2 days in the gym, focusing on what I could still do, stopped lifting mega heavy weights in favour of high reps and have even started bicep curls again. Age may be an obstacle, but it doesn’t need to be a barrier! We may not get the same results that we once did and we’ll never look as good as our fit 20 y/o self again, but we can still be the best version of ourselves that we can be. The benefits are endless and it’s almost never too late, so stop making excuses and start training.

    1. I just turned 65. I want to get into packing on as much muscle as I can. I used to be a competitive powerlifting back in my teens, all the way up into my 40’s. It is a lot different now. I just to do more of powerbuilding routine. Just want to pack on muscle size. I have, everything a gym has, right here I’m my home gym. Anything you can do to putting a routine together. However many days it takes. Also whatever supplements you think is necessary. I have 4 containers of protein powder. Again thank you for your time.

    2. Hi Alf
      I am in the same boat – substantial decline from 50 to 60
      I think I am done with Bench forever as I have also damaged Bicep tendons.

      I have been able to maintain significant strength, but my arms are half the size they used to be.

      I also trashed my lower back with too many squats and deadlifts.

      I have started limiting my sets and put three days in between same muscle groups – I head into the GYM and in my head I am 30 but unfortunately they have mirrors there – I was thinking maybe creatinine might help.

      I lift more than my 21 yr old son but my arms are half his size

    3. Biceps repair on torn proximal (upper) end of long head biceps is not usually recommended to be repaired. The loss of this portion of the biceps long head has been shown to equal only losing 10 to 20 percent f
      ow strength. So the risks of surgery and the resulting scar for what is essentially a cosmetic procedure needs to be considered.
      In 1997, Elway’s long head of biceps spontaneously ruptured. His biceps retracted distally, resulting in the classical “Popeye biceps sign.” However, his pain rapidly diminished and lead to a dramatic improvement in his performance and he ended up leading his team to consecutive Superbowl titles in 1997 and 1998. He was MVP of the 1998 Superbowl final, just prior to retiring at the age of 39.

  4. I am 66 and needed to read these comments. I stopped working out when I was in my late 40s because of my demanding career, resulting in weight gain and bad knees. I had two knee replacements, no physical therapy, now both knees hurt again.
    After reading these comments, I’m getting checked out by my doctor, heart disease in both parents, because I’m nervous about plaque buildup in my arteries. But time for me to start living again! Thank you!

      1. I am an cardiologist and just did a search for the peer reviewed literature. I don’t see any articles that show benefits on arterial plaque. Please provide a reference.

    1. I lost my knees to severe osteoarthritis in my mid 40s and quit working out because it was just too painful. I had both knees replaced at age 50; one got infected 4 yrs later and was replaced again. My legs had severe atrophy during those years. My right thigh used to be an inch larger than my left but after all my right leg went through in a 10 yr period it is an inch smaller than my left and probably will stay that way. I do try to put in a few reps on it alone but it’s not catching up. Now as I approach 65 I issued a challenge to myself this winter. I’m dedicated to working out 4 times a week for 100 mins and eating as healthy as I can make myself in an attempt to see if I can tone all over and finally eliminate the midriff bulge I’ve had since high school because I was too lazy to do ab work all the years I exercised. I also developed a post menopause slab of fat around my belly button that I’ve lost 3″ from already but still have work to do to completely erase.

      1. Hi Beth, it’s inspiring to me to read that you didn’t let your setbacks get in the way of forming a plan and it looks like you’re making headway. Gives me the energy to form a plan as well to help with my hip issues and stay strong. Take care, Dave

  5. I’m 58, retired military and I’ve been lifting for 40 years. I feel great and still walk/jog 2 miles 3 – 4 days a week along with strength training with weights. It’s soooo liberating too he capable of everything you’ve done at a younger age. It’s inspiring to hear from so many others than sure in their enthusiasm for fitness and quality of life. All it takes is healthy eating, consistent exercise, and a strong and positive mind.

    For those that don’t believe….look up Ernestine Shepard. She’s 84 and has the physique of a 40 year old. If known as the world’s oldest. Female body-builder! Phenomenal!

  6. Muscles almost as strong as when young(er) but at 58 won’t grow much. Or anymore. I guess no new fiber growth. But with fiber that remains strength is there. Main issue: injuries acquired over a lifetime (torn ACLs, torn rotator cuffs, bulging disks, etc.). So muscles are not really the issue.
    As others said above… we can go on and on with proper rest, proper diet, attitude… and paying more attention to form. Silly to think we have to give up because of some number. Although I wish I could still run.

    1. We could be brothers.
      I’m 58 too and have been a lifter for over 40 years.
      Problems are old injuries due to lifting all these years.
      Torn off biceps,torn off triceps,osteoarthritis in shoulders and knees( squatting and benching heavy).
      All that weight training isn’ t tyat healthy at ll.Better do bodyweight exercises.

  7. God bless everyone, not trying to change the perspective of the topic,but this market,that all we live,especially the aging market,is being focus exploited and miracle foods,enhancements, by TV famous discoveries aging presentations,by that so call experts, however there is not much talk or information about our own’s miracle human gifts giving by our creator of earth and heaven ,God,which is the basics of every living creature,and matter,giving to all ,for free,for good and healthy living,and every stage of our natural human life.

  8. Stop getting old and act your age! I’m 66 years young and look and feel great. I’ve stayed active my whole life and found that 95% of staying well is mental. I walk a few miles every morning, work out daily and lift weights for at least an hour 3 days a week. I bench press the same 235# I did when I was 20 Y.O. and have more muscle packed on than most teenagers. I honestly don’t want to boast here; honestly; that is NOT the purpose of this post. I just want everyone to stop focusing on the number (age) and start focusing on getting out there and feeling better. This is a great article! Get off your butt and exercise, eat well and maintain a positive attitude.

    1. I agree with you Jerry, Keep doing what you’re doing. I’m a 65 yr old female and body build 5-7 days a week. You would never guess I was that old based on my physique. Its all in the mind and attitude.

    2. Agreed Jerry. I am 60 and look and feel like 40. Still doing Db presses etc like I did years ago 23 times a week. Can drive the golf ball over 250. Have lots of energy. Eat carefully including 1g of protein per lb, plus supplement with Omega3 and plant sterols and creatine.
      I use rosehip oil daily for my face and am proud of my skin.
      I don’t worry and have a strong spiritual life.
      Age is really a number that we acknowledge but is not a driver of our behaviour. That is a personal choice.

  9. you decide when is over not your age ive seen my training with weights at 100 I am 64 still train pretty heavey I think seniors must pay proper attention to there died I should say eating plain I dint like diet word

  10. May I share a little about my training to give insight for older folks like us. I am 64 yrs old in September; was 73″ tall ,,,six – feet-one,,, until my physical this year where I stood 71″,,, five-feet-eleven. Yep , two inches shorter; 225 pounds, 18″ arms, curl 40 pound dumbells for 10 reps, and bench press 225 for 15 reps. However, my complaint is I’ve lost my boyish figure and no matter how hard and consistently I train, I can’t get it back. It makes me sad when I realize that my best days are truely behind me.

    Any advice anyone?

    1. Mac, Seriously add yoga to your routine. Many times strong tight muscles will shrink joint space especially in the vertebrae. Yoga will stretch out muscles and elongate. I have seen it add an inch after a year of practice. And keep lifting!

    2. Mac – We’re not boys anymore. Im 59 and have been lifting since I was 17.
      Its great for your mental health and as long as you are active, lifting will continue to promote good helath and a great attitude. Older men in great shape are a comodity ! Hell there aren’t even that many young men in great shape these days. Continue to do what you do and dont sweat the small stuff. The boy inside the man is still there: its all attitude!
      Stay positive – staf fit – stay healthy – Mind, Body and Soul.

  11. I still train for maximum weight, it maintains bone density. whilst it may be true it becomes more difficult to grow muscle, you still can. Remember to employ exercises that resist gravity, push up. Work muscles that strengthens your core to reduce back pain. Push up against gravity to strengthen muscles in your shoulders, our shoulders are held together with tendons. Train like you are young… push to lift heavier, however, above all make sure we train to whatever standard we can… try our best

    1. Moving is a recipe for longevity. People are killing themselves with overeating and wrong food consumption, excessive drinking and blanket inactivity. Then they reach for medication and do nothing to change their lifestyle.

      I have been active all my life. I maybe not lifting as heavy as I used to but can still drop and bang on 40 push ups and flip 60kg tyres. I carry all my shopping and walk wherever I can. Housework definitely adds up to my gym routines. Sooo, get of the couch and start moving. If you do not use it, you will certainly loose it (I mean muscles and everything else:)). 2 years to go till 60th birthday, but I will kick my own buttie until my legs carry me. Old???! What are you talking about??!!! Wish you all luck in your fitness endeavours.
      Ps- thank you Mick for posting. Carrying the load (like shopping:)), push ups, planks, bird dog exercises are one of the examples of core conditioning. Total body exercises and functional training continues to improve core, posture and general strength as well as the quality of life for seniors.

    2. Appreciate the comment Mick. Finally, somebody is not telling me to switch to 5 lbs. Plastic weights. I believe one can lift heavy as we age, but we have to lift smarter .
      I’m 65 still lifting heavy, using compound lifts; Centered around Squat, bench, O.H.P. Press and D.L. I warm up, use good form, pace myself and stay within my limits. Another words, I don’t need to test my 1 rep. Max. My rep. Routine vary s from 3-10 reps. which I cycle and a 45 minute workout, 4 days a week, with emphasis on the four compound lifts and a few sets of accessory lifts works best and still progressing.

    3. I agree Mick. I am a female competitive powerlifter at age 60. Didn’t start until late 50s but have set 3 state records. I’m close to a 500# total and hope to qualify for nationals soon. Bag the stupid pink Barbie dumbbells and lift heavy crap.

    1. 60 slowly showing signs or symptoms of ageing and it is important to understand and anticipate problems so that we can tackle it. For example: very dry skin, itchy skin, irritable eyes etc. So it is good to have a moisturiser to apply after shower so that the skin won’t get dry and itchy. As for irritable eyes, if there is nothing serious, just apply Refresh natural eye drops to smooth the irritation.

  12. Elderly people can mitigate the degenerative process through proper nutritional intake, and focusing over physical activities such as reps in order to ensure that each muscle groups is worked sufficiently to retain its mass.

    1. At our gym in a retirement community , a lot of people use it as a social activity. This is really frustrating as they will ‘stand’ on the equipment and just socialize not freeing it up for others. Some will wait long times in between reps and have actually fallen asleep. Very frustrating! So my suggestion to all who are , or want to get into exercising in the gym, please be aware of your surroundings and us the gym as a place to train. Leave the socializing for gathering.

      1. Ha ha ha. At our gym it’s the younger folks sitting on the equipment and staring at their phones. I go early in the day when other Seniors are there. We tend to be impatient!

      2. Inspiring article/thread encouraging me to stop thinking of age and to get out there and continue to cycle and to lift weights ! Thank you I am a 64 yr old women who 12 yrs ago had a brain haemorrhage now still fighting fit !

    2. I don’t lift. I ride bike less joint stress. Builds leg muscle for sure, going to start doing push-ups and pull-ups. Don’t need weights. Use your body. I’m 60 and I don’t feel 60 . It all in the mind. Used to lift heavy in my 30s got lazy and didn’t go to the gym. It eventually lead to high blood pressure and stress from my job didn’t help. Blood pressure is down and I feel great. I will toy with building muscle but at this stage getting rid of excess fat and sliming down is the goal. I went from 195 down to 170 in a summer. Quit my job lost the stress and that pushed me to ride my bike. I am religious about it now. Feel bad if I don’t ride daily. Noticed a plateau when riding. Building up leg muscle but not losing weight. Finally broke through, I wasn’t riding hard just pushing a bit. You can still build muscle , but it won’t be like when you were 20 or 30. All of my ex lifting buddies have joint problems from lifting heavy when they were younger. Glad I didn’t do that anymore… I benched 275and squatted 450 at the time I quit. I think it saved my joints . To some that’s not heavy but I was 150 pounds at that age,

  13. Wowwwwww

    What an amazing post!

    All points are superbly defined and easy to understand worth reading this post till end. Your tips are so helpful for me to achieve my goal of muscle gain! I am so glad that I have come across such wonderful blog!

    Thank you so much for sharing such an informational post! look forward to read many more and definitely going to share with my friends.

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