The Effect of Exercise on Fitness Body Composition and Strength in Older Aged Men

Why Exercise is Important for Older Adults

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.


An increase in fitness, strength and body composition decline with age leads to diminished functional capacity and an increased risk of disability. Exercise has been shown to both increase functional capacity and improve body composition among older adults.

Resistance training improved both skeletal muscle mass index (SMI, defined as appendicular muscle mass kg / height2 m2) and fat mass percentage across studies, though at follow-up there was some reduction in FM%.


Resistance exercise such as weight training can increase muscle mass and strength in older aged men. A good fitness professional will assist you with setting up and making adjustments to your workout plan as your body responds, as well as teaching techniques to prevent injury.

Not only will resistance training build muscles and increase strength. It can also decrease the likelihood of falls as well as strengthen tendons and ligaments which lowers osteoporosis risk.

Recent research indicates that resistance training remains the best method to increase strength among older adults. This is particularly significant given how aging causes muscle loss that makes cardio exercises harder to reverse than resistance-based workouts.

This study investigated the effects of short-term strength training (STST) on various manifestations of muscle strength, functional capacity and body composition in older people living with sarcopenia.

Results demonstrated an increase in handgrip strength while decreasing fat mass. Hypertrophy-type exercises as well as endurance-type ones combined were responsible for this increase in muscle strength. Also an improvement was noted on balance tests as well as the timed up and go test which measures balance speed and gait speed.

Some older men are known for having "old man strength." It's thought this comes from years of consistent manual labor and maintaining an extensive training regime, while other experts think adrenaline-related hormones might play a part in this phenomenon.

Strength training also can build strong core and healthy backs that reduce the risk of many chronic health conditions, including lower back pain, obesity, depression and anxiety, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Strength training builds tendons and ligaments vital for stability and movement that will make all the difference in life.

To increase muscle mass, it is vital that you engage in high intensity training sessions.

This applies equally well to younger and older individuals alike. It becomes even more essential as people reach 50 due to the inability of their skeletal muscles to produce protein essential for maintaining strength.

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Fat Mass

Body fat is an integral component of bodyweight. The amount of fat in your system determines how much energy can be utilized by your muscles and joints at once, as well as speed of movement.

With age comes an increase in body fat while muscle decreases, leading to a gradual loss of power and strength. This condition, known as sarcopenia, involves both lost muscle mass and increased fat deposits that gradually wear away over time.

Sarcopenia can lead to decreased mobility and raises risks of injury or death. Lifestyle adjustments including diet, exercise and physical activity can slow this progression; physical activity in particular has an enormously positive effect on muscle mass distribution among older people.

There is a strong and direct relationship between moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per day, healthy diet and body composition.

Furthermore, having more muscle mass helps enhance functional fitness. Studies have also demonstrated that stronger muscular strength reduces your risk for functional disability as you age.

At first, men experience an increase in body fat mass until middle age; after which it decreases until around 70.

Both genders experience similar trends. Body fat can be measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI), an indicator that shows what percentage of your weight consists of fat. However, BMI may be affected by muscle and bone density issues. For more accurate readings use Fat Mass Index (FMI), calculated using your weight and height measurements.

Studies revealed that eight weeks of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) combined with resistance training (2-3 times weekly) produced significant improvements in upper body strength, agility and dynamic balance in middle-aged and older adults.

Furthermore, this exercise program reduced both regional and total fat mass, as well as increasing lean mass. These changes did not correlate to hormone changes;

Lean Mass

Studies have demonstrated a correlation between muscle strength and body mass. However, this relationship may not be linear and changes to muscle mass may only account for some differences in strength between groups.

Cross-sectional studies also suggest other factors may impact this association such as obesity. Thus it is essential that when assessing exercise's effect on older adult strength it takes body fat percentage into account.

An increase of Lean Body Mass (LBM) may seem linked to improved physical performance. However, it's important to keep in mind that most LBM is composed of water; an average male weighs over 55% water!

Therefore, an increase of LBM without concurrent changes to body fat would not translate to positive changes in physical performance.

Resistance and mixed exercise programs have been shown to be successful at improving strength-related outcomes associated with sarcopenia.

Negaresh et al. found that an 8-week progressive resistance training program significantly increased appendicular skeletal muscle mass index among healthy older men with sarcopenia, as well as increasing knee extension strength, grip strength, TUG rating and gait speed in this group.

Another meta-analysis by its authors demonstrated that resistance and mixed exercise programs were associated with significant increases in lean body mass (LBM), reductions in total fat mass, and an improvement in BMI score among healthy elderly men.

They noted, however, that there was significant heterogeneity in resistance training groups - potentially due to differing assessment methods or training prescriptions used across studies.

Regression modeling indicated that both lower BMIs and reduced percentage body fat percentages were linked with increases in muscular strength values, with muscle mass and fat composition having more of an influence than BMI on this regard.


Your body experiences hormonal shifts throughout each day. After eating, the pancreas produces insulin to control blood sugar levels. When you brake suddenly to avoid an accident, adrenal glands release adrenaline; while as you prepare for sleep at night your pineal gland produces melatonin.

Hormones flow freely throughout your entire system but only affect specific cells designed to receive their messages by binding with specific receptors like keys in locks. These messages then act as messengers between organs to maintain and improve all aspects of our physiology including muscle growth and maintenance.

As we age, research shows serum testosterone (T) levels decrease while fitness, strength and lean mass decrease. Exercise may help reverse these trends by increasing adipose tissue turnover and encouraging skeletal muscle mass synthesis.

Numerous variables influence the hormonal response to exercise, such as type and intensity of training, duration, rest periods and interactions among hormones involved. Also important for adaptation process are interactions among them as a whole.

Human Growth Hormone (hGH), for instance, is an anabolic peptide which stimulates cell growth, reproduction and metabolism.

HGH secretion increases during resistance training as well as endurance exercise - with aerobic exercise yielding greater results.

Meanwhile, estrogen--also an anabolic and anti-inflammatory agent--is activated over time through resistance and aerobic exercises, stimulating cell growth while decreasing fat accumulation while simultaneously regulating blood lipid levels.

Men experience more profound hormonal effects on muscle growth and strength due to having greater amounts of lean body mass than females do; and because testosterone and estrogen exert stronger influences than they would on males.

Combining aerobic and resistance training can be more effective than either form alone. This is because exercise intensity has direct influence over GH production and fat turnover while resistance training's specificity increases sex-specific hormone production.


Research indicates that regular physical activity, particularly weight training, is an effective way to both prevent the development of osteoporosis later in life. Exercise can enhance balance, mobility and overall function in older men.

Unfortunately, however, many older adults struggle to fit regular exercise into their busy daily schedules and may worry that they are not capable of performing exercises at the recommended intensity level.

Exercise can reduce disease risks while simultaneously improving age-related conditions such as arthritis and diabetes, helping older adults feel better, remain active, and remain mobile. Furthermore, it improves balance, strength, and endurance allowing for an enhanced lifestyle among them.

Aerobic capacity decreases as people age, with declines in maximum stroke volume and heart rate and changes to oxygen arteriovenous difference; however, high intensity resistance training may reverse this trend. Resistance training also has the ability to build muscle mass and bone density but at a lesser intensity than aerobic exercises.

Exercise prescription for older adults ideally includes a multicomponent approach consisting of muscle-strengthening activities two days per week combined with 150 minutes or 75 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity and 10 minutes of balance exercises three to five times weekly.

Healthcare professionals should seek a medical clearance before beginning any new exercise program for patients, helping them understand the advantages and set reasonable goals, such as walking for 10 minutes every day.

Therapists should encourage patients to make exercise enjoyable by inviting friends or family members along for the ride, adding inclines or hills for added challenge when walking.

Add resistance tubing (available at most sporting goods stores) or weights around your neck or legs to make seated exercises, like chair squats and marching in place, more challenging. Even frail elderly individuals can benefit from regular physical activity.

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