Will my muscle mass decline with age?

Yes, unfortunately muscle mass will decline with age. Peak muscle fiber size occurs around age 20 for sedentary individuals before beginning to decline. However, physically active adults maintain fiber size until roughly age 60. Research shows the size of Type II fibers (fibers responsible for fast, powerful contractions) decreases with age. This is a primary reason why so many older adults are at risk for sustaining accidental falls. Following systematic and progressive resistance training programs as described by NASM muscle mass decline can be slowed.

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

They decline after hitting a peak in your twenties. If you don't exercise your muscles regularly, they will start to atrophy on an ongoing basis throughout your life after you have hit your peak. This loss of muscle is what accounts for a slower metabolism as we age, and it is this reduction in metabolism that often results in a slow, gradual weight gain over the years. The good news, though, is that this does not need to happen, at least not to a large extent. Sure, you will have some reduction in muscle over your lifetime, but if you exercise your muscles regularly, you will keep them strong. If you use your muscles, you are telling your body that they are still important to you, so they should be preserved. The most important muscles to preserve in aging are your core muscles (i.e., your chest, abdomen, back, shoulders, and thigh muscles). For one thing, they are your largest muscles and will help you maintain a higher metabolism, but, more important, strong core muscles help people retain their balance and mobility. In the later years, this is one of the biggest determinants in deciding who is able to remain independent at home and who needs to be in an assisted living environment.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.