How to Build Muscle in Midlife

AAY Fitness Trainer and Coach Elaine Demo Lunge Side

We have bad news and good news.

The bad news: As we age, our muscle mass decreases at surprising rates. In fact, in our 30's we start to lose as much as 3% to 8% of our muscle each decade. And we lose at an even higher rate in our 60's & 70's.

The good news: No matter what age you are, there are things you can do right now to prevent or reverse muscle loss. 


Loss of muscle leads to a variety of conditions that can severely impact your health & quality of life, including: 

  • Reduction of strength & balance

  • Unsteady gait
  • Increased risk of falling & fractures
  • Decreased ability to perform everyday activities (climbing stairs, lifting objects, walking)
  • Decreased metabolism and weight gain (more muscle = stronger metabolism)



There are two main causes of muscle loss: 

  • Physical inactivity, especially lack of strength training
  • Not getting enough protein to sustain muscle mass (41% of women and 38 % of men over the age of 50 eat less protein than the recommended daily allowance!)



We used to think it was impossible for the frail elderly to build muscle, but now we know that with proper strength training & nutrition we can gain muscle at any age.


Strength Training

Countless studies have shown that strength training — even among individuals in their 80’s & 90’s – helps muscles grow bigger and stronger.  Power training is also important because it helps us move more quickly & efficiently, allowing us to perform the activities of daily living more effectively.  

For best results, make sure you:

  • Train all major muscles, including those in the front, back, upper and lower body.
  • Train 2-3x per week.
  • Do not train the same muscle group two days in a row. (Muscles need one day of rest to rebuild & repair.)
  • Use resistance that challenges the muscle. Increase the resistance as you get stronger. 
  • Include strength, endurance & power exercises.
  • Perform exercises with proper form. Work with a trainer or fitness program to ensure you are doing exercises safely & effectively.



It’s important that you consume enough protein on a daily basis to build & maintain your muscle mass. To increase your protein intake:

  • Include a serving of protein in every meal & snack.
  • Eat a variety of lean protein from sources such as: chicken, fish, soy, beans and nuts.
  • Eat small meals & snacks consistently throughout the day.
  • Focus on whole, fresh foods to help ensure you’re getting all the other nutrients your body needs.
  • If you need additional support, check out AAY! Nutrition for guidance.