Life is about balance, and as we age our priorities shift. We want to feel strong and fit, but also don’t want to spend hours at the gym every day. In fact, as women over 60 most of us really don’t want to do that and honestly, we shouldn’t. Those days are in the past for most of us (I know there are exceptions, and if that’s your jam, that’s great!) but we still need to put the effort into keeping our muscles strong.
Fortunately, there are some specific things we can do, actions we can take, that help in building strength after 60. So, we’re going to talk about five simple tips that can put you on the road to a healthy lifestyle with a body that is fit and strong.
It’s important to be clear about the fact that this post is not advocating that we all become muscle builders or muscle queens in our 60s. I’m having a hard time picturing that, and I don’t think I want to! We’ll leave that to those who have a passion for body building in their 60s and beyond.
And, I am not a medical professional, nor am I a fitness expert. I am, however, a woman in my 60s who is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. I’ve researched and applied the tips that we’ll be discussing here.
Finally, building muscle after 60 is applicable to all of us who are healthy enough to be able to exercise regularly. (Be sure to check with your physician if you have any questions about your health and ability to exercise.) So if you’re wondering how to gain muscle as older adults, you’ve stopped at the right place, my friend.
First, let’s learn more about why and how our body changes and our muscle mass decreases as we age. With a better understanding of the ‘why’ we can (hopefully) be better motivated to do something about it.
Why Do We Lose Muscle as We Get Older?
Yes, we all lose muscle as we age. The medical term for this loss of muscle mass, which often goes hand in hand with a decrease in strength and mobility, is sarcopenia, or sarcopenia with aging.
This process starts to take place at around the time people reach their 30s, and for someone who is not active, you can lose as much as 3% to 5% of muscle mass each decade. Yikes! Even if you’re active, some muscle loss is going to occur. Once you reach your 70s the process happens even faster, and is a factor in the concern about a slip and fall with injury. That is a very real issue for all of us as we get older.
Researchers believe that sarcopenia develops as a result of several factors, including a decrease in the body’s ability to turn protein into energy, not getting enough calories or protein in a day to sustain muscle mass, and lower concentrations of certain hormones.
Many believe it can be reversed, or at least slowed down, with exercise.
What are the effects of sarcopenia on our body?
As the aging process takes place and we start to lose muscle mass , our balance can become less stable, and ultimately it can become more difficult for us to walk or do any physical activity. Additionally, as the muscles in our body begin to deteriorate with age, so does their function – which can make everyday tasks such as cooking food or walking up a flight of stairs much more difficult.
Our muscles become smaller with age, as well. The effects of sarcopenia on our body are much more than just an inconvenience, and it’s important to take action when we start to notice any changes in our physical abilities.
Does it take longer to rebuild muscle when we’re older?
Yes, it does take longer to rebuild muscle when we’re older. It takes a few weeks for the new muscles cells that you build during physical activity to grow and replace the damaged ones, but it’s important not to give up if you don’t see any changes after just one session of exercise.
Like any other activity, building strength as women over 60 is a process. It takes time, persistence and dedication. There are so many benefits to regular exercise and we don’t want to give up on ourselves. I look at my commitment to living healthy as a part time job. Literally. It is that important to me, so I make sure to put those activities at the top of the ‘to do’ list.
Exercise is important because it improves balance, flexibility, muscular strength. When the muscles get stronger they can better support your bones and joints which helps preserve muscle mass as we age. Exercise also increases blood flow to all of the body’s tissues including the brain which can improve memory and mood.
5 Best Tips: Building Strength After 60
Building strength after 60 is a commitment, isn’t going to just happen by itself. We have to put in the effort, friends, to enjoy the benefits. And no, it’s not going to get rid of the belly fat that we acquire as we get older, and it’s not going to give us back the figures of our youth. Not gonna happen.
But, we will be stronger, our muscles will perform better for us, our quality of life will be better, our metabolism will be working well, and yes, we’ll look good as women in our 60s, too!
1 | Make a Plan | Set a Goal
As with any other commitment, decision, action, objective, or desire you have, it has a much better opportunity for success if there is some kind of a plan in place. Set a goal if you wish, too.
It’s okay to say, “I want to build muscle strength”, but that doesn’t really give any specific way to achieve the goal.
Here are a few suggestions:
- If you don’t know how to get started, consider meeting with a fitness expert, personal trainer, or coach, for a consultation or more of a scheduled program for workouts.
- Take advantage of the free information the internet world has to offer. You can learn more about strength training right here on this site, with topical posts on exercise and fitness for women in midlife
- Hop over to YouTube and you’ll find many free videos for women over 60 that will help you with strength training. One of my favorites is Senior Shape with Lauren. Check it out!
Put your plan in writing if you find it helpful to do so. For many people, writing something down helps to cement the goal and you are more likely to follow through.
Your plan could be very simple: Strength training exercises for 20 to 30 minutes, 3 times a week. Aerobic exercise for 30 to 40 minutes, twice a week. Mark it on your calendar. Make it a priority.
Do you track your workout goals and results? How about other tasks, goals and dreams?
Thinking about a goal is one thing; putting it in writing takes you so much further toward turning it into a reality!
These are the tools and resources I use to keep myself accountable & plan for the future. LEARN MORE
2 | Remember the warm up and the cool down
It is essential to warm up before an exercise routine, and cool down after exercising because your muscles and joints need to be prepared for the physical movement, then slowly cooled off after the exercise is finished. Cold muscles are more prone to injury than warm ones, so you should never start a workout without warming up first!
If you choose to follow a workout video, most of the time the instructor will include a short warm up and cool down. I follow the Mighty Health program, which includes a wide selection of exercise videos specifically designed for people over 50, and a warm up/cool down is always included.
Here is an example of a simple warm up:
- Do a light jog for two minutes
- Stretch your arms and legs
- Swinging your arms in circles to loosen up the back muscles.
Here is an example of a simple after-exercise cool down:
- Try to stretch the muscles you just used
- Do light stretching exercises, such as touching your toes
- Take deep breaths in and out for a couple minutes. This will help bring down your heart rate, which can be high after exercising.
3 | Increase reps rather than weight
Here’s why we want to increase reps rather than adding heavier weights during our strength training workout.
Increasing reps can strengthen the muscles, build muscle, and improve endurance. Instead of making a heavier weight your goal, keep using the lighter weight but do more repetitions, until your muscles are tired enough that you have to take a break before doing any more.
Adding weight may cause injury, especially for those of us over the age of 60 (and beyond) who have more fragile connective tissue.
Here’s a Tip: Consider using just your body weight for strength training exercises. It can be a very effective way to gain muscle strength as well as flexibility and coordination. And, don’t think for a second that eliminating the free weights will make exercising too easy! No, girlfriend. Body weight exercises are challenging. Here are a few examples:
- glute bridges
- push ups (against the wall, on your knees, or on your toes if you’re strong enough)
If you need examples and want more info about these types of body weight exercises, you’ll learn a lot from Linda Melone. Check out her quick workout routine to restart your fitness for women in midlife.
4 | Eat right | Stay hydrated
Eating well goes hand in hand with exercise for building muscle. As women over 60 we need to be mindful of our nutritional needs, as a poor diet will counteract our strength training efforts. We do not need to go out and eat a steak every day but it is important that we make healthy choices when food shopping, cooking or eating away from home.
The two most important macronutrients in building muscle for women over 60 are protein and carbohydrates. Protein helps build muscles while carbs, good carbs, provide the body with energy.
A woman needs to eat at least 40 grams of protein a day and limit carbohydrate intake to about 25-30% of the total calories eaten every day. The average woman in her 60s should be eating between 20 and 30 carbs per meal.
Also, 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
Fats are also important for building muscles so it is not necessary to avoid them, just be aware which fats are good and which ones are bad. Examples of good fats would include Omega-fish oils, nuts and legumes.
How about hydration?
It is essential to stay hydrated as women in our 60s because muscle mass naturally declines as we’ve discussed. By drinking water we can help hydrate our muscles and improve their function.
How many glasses of water should you drink? The Institute of Medicine recommends at least 12 cups a day which is equivalent to about six eight-ounce glasses.
5 | Always listen to your body
No one knows your body better than you, my friend. And no one else is going to care for it, that is up to you. So, be sure and listen to the cues your body naturally provides.
My body tells me when it is too tired to do any more exercise or activity. It tells me when I’ve burned more fuel than I’ve consumed. It gives me cues when it has had too many foods that are not on the healthy list. It lets me know when I’ve been sitting for too long. It gives me feedback when it has been active and the heart has been working harder.
I just have to listen to what it is telling me and make wise decisions and choices about what comes next.
So please, always, always listen to your body. If it is telling you that the exercise you’re attempting to do, or the weight you’re holding, is too hard or too heavy. Stop, put it down, give your body a rest for a minute. Step back and rethink that exercise. You always want to be wise and treat your body with respect.
Conclusion: Building Strength After 60
We get one opportunity to live this life and care for our body as we get older. Building muscle after 60 is essential, my friend, to keeping our body strong, functioning properly, and working well as the years go by.
Give yourself the gift of self care, every day, by including some form of exercise. Aerobic or strength training. But please, do something for yourself (and those who love you). Get up, get moving, and get healthy!
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