Building and Maintaining Muscle After Fifty

By Samantha Mansell

Certified Personal Trainer, ISSA
UFC Certified Coach
Nutrition Certified, ISSA


Contrary to popular belief, it’s never too late to build or rebuild muscle and strength after fifty. It can be discouraging as we age leaving us to wondering if it’s even possible to get into shape- it’s frustrating at any age. But here’s the deal: building muscle after fifty is not only offers good physique, it is essential if you look forward to a long life of healthy aging in a strong active body. To regain or build muscle after fifty you need three main ingredients: Mindset, Diet/Nutrition, and Exercise.



First and foremost, refuse to accept muscle loss as normal with age. Mindset is essential; you must believe it is possible. Acknowledge and embrace your imperfections and view challenges as opportunities. Then, get to work! Reflect daily and identify successes to celebrate. Believe in your abilities, have an optimistic attitude, and look forward to creating a healthy active future.



The second and possibly the most important ingredient to maintaining or building muscle after fifty is diet and nutrition. While we recommend you consult with our in-house Registered Dietitian, Alexandra Dusenberry, here are a few tips.


You cannot out exercise a bad diet, no matter how strong your belief and workout program. It is important to eat a healthy high-protein diet. A protein supplement can help you increase your protein intake if you don’t get enough from your regular meals. Some of the best foods for strong muscles are chicken or turkey breast, dairy food, eggs, protein shakes and legumes. Other helpful supplements include, creatine, omega 3-fatty acids, and vitamin D.


Protein is the major building block of the body, and because it isn’t stored it needs to be replenished regularly. Complete proteins are found in most animal sources such as meat, fish and eggs, while incomplete proteins are generally found in vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Vegan and restrictive diets often lack the adequate protein if careful attention is not paid. If you are vegan or plant-based, it’s even more important for you to learn how to get enough of this essential nutrient.  “For those that avoid eating animal products, there are many options that are considered complete proteins such as quinoa, or a soy food like organic tofu or edamame. You can also make a complete protein meal by combining certain foods, such as rice and beans,” says Alexandra Dusenberry, our registered dietitian.

*Verified by our Registered Dietitian, Alexandra Dusenberry.



The third important component to staying fit over fifty is exercise-- more specifically strength training. Starting a new exercise program can be overwhelming, especially when you don’t know which exercises to do and how much to do. Strength training is key, but it can include a lot of different exercises. You can start with light weight or your own body weight.


Starting a workout program is a life adjustment. Take the time to gain the skills and techniques for each exercise. That might mean hiring a personal trainer or attending classes. It is crucial to learn the right way and right form to avoid injury. Look for classes tailored to beginners or your age group. Not only is this beneficial for proper performance, but meeting people and making friends in your workout community helps keep you accountable with great workout buddies and makes working out more enjoyable.


Weight lifting maybe the single best way for older men and women to maintain overall fitness and stop the slow inching fat gain. You can build strength and muscle by lifting 2-3 times per week—just remember to start slow. You can get a personal trainer to help you.


Other great activities to improve your fitness is walking regularly, cycling, jogging and/or swimming, all of which is great for maintaining lower levels of body fat and improving flexibility and overall body tone. Incorporating high intensity interval training (HIIT) is fast, effective and challenging. Again, remember to start slowly and stop when you are winded to help minimize the risks.


Lastly, but not least is core strengthening. The core work is imperative, especially since it is one of the first areas of the body to suffer after fifty. Poor core strength can lead to a domino effect of other physical aches and pains due to poor body mechanics and poor alignment. To save yourself from sore backs, hips, knees and neck, it is important to consistently perform a balanced core strength workout three-four times a week. A twenty-minute core workout can make a huge difference in your daily activities.


Get Moving and Have Fun!

Getting and staying in shape after fifty is possible, but requires consistency. Believe it’s possible, eat your protein, and keep moving! When it comes to seeing the physical results of your dedication, most fitness professionals agree it will take a few weeks. Be patient. Additionally, the benefits of building muscle over fifty are abundant. It slows down bone thinning, provides greater joint flexibility, lessens arthritis symptoms, improves balance and may even improve brain function to name a few. So, get moving and have fun! A body in motion stays in motion. You’ve got this!

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