Age and exercise and bodybuilding are inextricably linked. The older you are, the more important it is that you exercise. You can add life to your years, and perhaps years to your life, but you must exercise safely and effectively, or otherwise the results will be injury, frustration, and failure.
The older you are, the more urgent it is not to make mistakes, and the more knowledgeable you need to be.
“Use it or lose it, but don’t abuse it.” This applies to all ages, but especially to older bodybuilders.
The older you are, the greater the need for training consistency. A young person can lay off training for a couple of months, and then return to previous strength and fitness levels quickly; but it takes more time for an older trainee, and the chance of incurring problems along the way is usually greater. If you lay off too long, you’ll never make it all the way back.
Older people often have some bodyparts with restricted ranges of motion. Although ranges of motion can usually be improved, limitations will remain for some trainees. Some exercises may need to be modified, or avoided.
According to some reports there’s typically a loss of about 1% of muscle mass per year from about age 50, unless strength training is employed to prevent or at least minimize the loss. From around age 60 there may be a slight escalation beyond 1% a year. By age 70 this may add up to a loss of over 25% of one’s muscle mass relative to what it was at age 25, depending on the individual, and if there’s been no strength-training intervention.
There can even be a substantial loss of muscle before middle age. If, for example, in your late teens you were very active, and involved in sports, but then became sedentary for two decades, you would lose a lot of muscle tissue. Even if your weight is the same at age 40 as it was at 20, you would have gained a lot of fat, and dramatically changed your body composition and appearance. Strength training is important for young people, too.
Many people get heavier as they age, while they lose muscle mass. Thus their overall gain of bodyfat is dramatic. They have more fat to lug around, and less muscle to employ to move their bodies. This is the major reason why most older people struggle physically.
Loss of muscle has many negative consequences, including strength decline, reduced caloric requirements, postural deterioration, reduced fitness, increased tendency to gain bodyfat, weakened resistance to injury, and deterioration in physical appearance.
Strength training is essential for building muscle, maintaining muscle, or minimizing muscle loss, depending on your age and how long and well you’ve been training. Strength training is one of the most important things you can do for your appearance and health.
Muscle is precious — build it, and then preserve it.
If you start strength training when you’re in your late teens or early twenties, for example, and train effectively and consistently, you may reach your physical peak in your thirties. You should then continue to strength train. It would maintain your existing muscle mass for many years, and thereafter minimize its atrophy. But by starting from a higher base of muscle mass before the inevitable atrophy starts, the resulting muscle mass at, for instance, age 70, will be far greater than it would have been had you not strength trained. This will make a huge difference to your appearance, fitness, and general well-being, especially if you keep yourself lean.
If you start strength training in your middle or later years, you’ll be able to build new muscle for a number of years, then maintain it for further years, and thereafter minimize its atrophy. The end result, again, will leave you with far more muscle than you would have had if you had not trained, and make a huge difference to your appearance, fitness, and general well-being, especially if you keep yourself lean.
Strength training also applies stress on the skeleton, which builds stronger, denser bones that are less likely to fracture during accidents. Strength training also builds or maintains the strong muscles required for dynamic balance, to help reduce the incidence of some accidents.
One of the functions of the muscular system is to maintain good posture. A steady contraction of the postural muscles — including the back, thighs, neck, shoulders, and abdominals — keeps the body in position. When these muscles lose strength, posture suffers. When the erector spinae weaken, for example, it causes rounding of the shoulders, gait change, reduced resistance to injury, and a decrease in height — common changes that start at about age 40 unless averted by strength training. Strong postural muscles are critical.
Strong muscles produce health benefits that reduce the impact of aging. Strength training helps you to stay young for your years.
But strength training alone isn’t enough. Without a supple body, for example, muscles lose some of their elasticity and ability to function smoothly, and tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules become brittle. Tissues in general become more susceptible to injury, and the body ages at an accelerated rate.
The steadfast combination of strength training, stretching, cardiovascular work, healthy nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle is the closest we can get to the fountain of youth, but the exercise must be safe, and effective.