What if you were lifting the same weight in ten years as you are today? How would that make you feel?

If you’re fifteen, or if you’re new to working out, I hope you would be disappointed.

But what if you’re 50? Or 70? How would you feel about being exactly as strong at 60 or 70 as you were at 50 or 60? I can say as a 52 year old, that I’ll be happy to be as strong at 62 as I am at 52. And honestly, I expect to be.

I expect this even though science says we lose 3-8% of our muscle mass per decade after the age of 30.[1] By that metric, I should be 3-8% less strong than I was 10 years ago and would be another 3-8% weaker in 10 years. The thing is, the data behind that doesn’t take into account exercise. When we do take exercise into account, it’s a completely different story:

“Research in elite masters athletes found no significant loss of lean body mass or strength from 40 to 81 years of age in people that kept exercising”[2]

If you’re exactly as strong in the future as you are today, that’s a win

Because if it wasn’t for the effort you’re putting in to your body, you would be weaker. As strong is a big win over less strong. I know some people are disappointed when they see status quo is the result after a few years of consistently lifting weights twice per week and walking or generally being active a few more days per week. If this sounds like you, remind yourself that if you didn’t do this work, you would be weaker.

Now here’s some really cool news for those of you who don’t exercise (yet)

You could be stronger in 10 years than you are now. Studies have shown a 10% increase in muscle cross-section area after only 9 weeks of strength training in elderly men and women.[3] Think about how much easier life will be in 10 years if you are 10% stronger than you are now instead of 3-8% weaker.

What age is too old to start building muscle?

If you listen to conventional wisdom, the answer is somewhere around 40. Thankfully, science suggests otherwise. There are numerous studies that show participants in their 50s, 60s, and 70s gaining as much muscle over a 4 to 6 month period as participants in their 20s. [2] As someone who has trained hundreds of people over 40, those studies confirm what I have seen.

You can build muscle and once you build it, as noted above, you get to keep it.

That’s pretty exciting.

It turns out the muscle loss that we often attribute to aging is actually more about disuse.

There are no guarantees in life

Luck, health history, and genetics also play a part in defining your future life, so starting to exercise isn’t a guarantee. The thing is, you don’t control those factors. Whether or not you exercise, on the other hand, is in your control. And it turns out the impact of the exercise you do is much longer lasting than most poeple realize.

Like what you just read?

Eager to start getting stronger but not sure how? If you live in Ottawa or are up for personal training via Zoom, consider coming to see us at Custom Strength in Hintonburg. Or grab a copy of my How to Start Working Out ebook, which includes 4 beginner workout programs to choose from.

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