strength training older men

Why strength training is vital for older men

We all want to live longer and maintain a high quality of life as we age. For older men, strength training is a vital part of remaining “healthy” in those later years. It’s important to remember that ‘health’ is “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. That’s where strength training is crucial…

The stats:

• Average retirement age for Australian Males is 65
• Pension qualifying age is currently 65 – this will rise to 67 by 1 July 2023
• Average lifespan of Australian Males is 82.5 years

ONLY 17.5 years of Retirement? Then after 2023, it will reduce to 15.5 years of retirement (on average), assuming the average lifespan remains the same. So, we have approx. 15-17 years to reap the rewards of all those years of hard work… except:

• 1 in 5 Australians will experience chronic pain, and after the age of 65 the prevalence increases to 1 in 3.
• 16% of the Australian population have back problems
• 70-90% of people will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives
• 1 in 3 Australian men over the age of 50 are on pain medication

Musculoskeletal Healthcare matters

Musculoskeletal health is particularly important for maintaining an active, productive and prolonged (working) life. Impaired musculoskeletal health can be the cause of acute and chronic pain, with lower back pain (LBP) and shoulder disorders being the most common and debilitating.2

There is a strong relationship between painful musculoskeletal conditions, lack of physical activity and resulting functional decline, frailty, loss of independence, withdrawal from social activities, decreased mental health, well-being and quality of life.

strength training

Why do we lose muscle as we age?

The natural aging process leads to distinct muscle mass and strength loss, with a 15% loss per decade over the age of 50! Age related factors contributing to loss of muscle mass & strength include:

• Loss of anabolic factors such a neural growth factors, growth hormone, androgens and estrogens (male andropause occurs around age 50)
• Decreased physical activity
Chronic conditions such as heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis
• Insufficient nutrient intake
• Muscle atrophy and sarcopenia

How can strength training help?

Studies show that strength training (aka weight lifting, progressive resistance training) can improve muscle mass and strength. This can help to combat the musculoskeletal issues associated with aging.

Functionally, strength training is an activity in which muscles move dynamically against weight (or resistance). Small but consistent increases in the amount of weight lifted are made over time.

The benefits of strength & resistance training include:

• Increased lean muscle mass
• Increased metabolic rate
• Preserve/increase bone density & joint health
• Increased balance & decreased risk of falls or injury
• Prevention of muscle loss associated with aging
• Improved sleep
• Improved mental health & reduced depression
• Reduced risk and symptoms of some chronic diseases
• Improved cognitive function
• Potential to reduce risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease

Strength training, in both highly controlled environments to minimally supervised home-based programs, has significant results overall in ageing adults.

How to change

To maintain your current physical health – you need to do at least 3 x 30min sessions of moderate exercise per week. To improve your physical health and build muscle mass; the intensity, frequency or duration (or all) need to increase.

We all know the barriers to changing or maintaining a healthy lifestyle – pain, functional capacity, mental health conditions, time, cost, motivation, family, work and social commitments etc. BUT if you want to be able to enjoy your later years and get the most out of retirement, changes need to be made sooner, rather than later.

Where to get help…

As Allied Health Professionals who specialise in using exercise as medicine, Exercise Physiologists are the best professionals to help you remain active at all ages.

To find an Accredited Exercise Physiologist near you, click here.


Written by Troy Burgess.
Troy is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Director of Achieve Exercise Physiology.