As we age, our bodies undergo a plethora of changes, both externally and internally.

One of the most significant transformations concerns our muscles. But what exactly are the distinctions between a 10-year-old’s muscles and a 60-year-old’s muscles?

Muscle Mass and Strength

First and foremost, muscle mass and strength are the most apparent variations between the young and the old. A 10-year-old is still growing and has relatively smaller muscles than an adult. On the other hand, a 60-year-old would have experienced a natural decline in muscle mass, a phenomenon known as sarcopenia[1]. Sarcopenia usually begins around the age of 30 and accelerates after 60, leading to a loss of about 3 to 5 percent of muscle mass per decade[2]. Consequently, 60-year-olds will have weaker muscles compared to their younger counterparts.

Muscle Fiber Composition

The type and composition of muscle fibers also change with age. There are two primary types of muscle fibers: Type I (slow-twitch) and Type II (fast-twitch). Type II fibers are particularly susceptible to age-related decline. These fibers are responsible for rapid, powerful movements but fatigue quickly. A 60-year-old may notice a decrease in their ability to perform high-intensity activities as efficiently as a 10-year-old[3].

Recovery and Healing

Another crucial aspect is the muscle’s ability to recover and heal. A 10-year-old’s muscles recover much faster from exercise or injury than a 60-year-old’s. Muscle tissue regeneration depends on satellite cells, which become less responsive with age[4]. This decline in muscle regeneration capacity can make it harder for older adults to recover from injuries or intense physical activities.

Metabolism and Hormonal Changes

The metabolic rate of muscles also changes with age. Younger individuals typically have a higher metabolism, which plays a significant role in building and maintaining muscle mass. Hormonal changes, such as the reduction of growth hormone and testosterone levels, contribute to the loss of muscle mass and strength in older individuals[5].


Young muscles tend to be more flexible and pliable. This is due to the higher amounts of water in younger muscles and the increased elasticity of connective tissues. In contrast, as people age, muscles and tendons become less elastic, which may contribute to a reduced range of motion and flexibility[6].

But don’t give up!  Individuals over 60 can develop and increase muscle mass.

Although it’s generally more challenging as we age due to factors like a decrease in hormone levels and changes in muscle fiber composition, it is still possible with the right approach.

Here are steps that can help:

  1. Start Slowly: If you are not accustomed to strength training, it’s important to start slowly to avoid injury.
  2. Resistance Training: Engage in resistance training, such as lifting weights, at least two to three times per week. Focus on major muscle groups like the chest, back, legs, and arms.
  3. Proper Form: Learn and maintain proper form during exercise. It might be helpful to work with a personal trainer who can teach proper techniques and guide you in selecting appropriate weights and exercises.
  4. Progressive Overload: Gradually increase your workouts' intensity by lifting heavier weights or increasing the number of repetitions or sets. This principle is vital for muscle growth at any age.
  5. Balanced Diet: Consume a balanced diet with sufficient protein to support muscle repair and growth. Protein is essential for muscle building, and older adults may need a slightly higher protein intake than younger people. Include lean meats, fish, legumes, nuts, and dairy. Don’t forget to include sufficient vitamins and minerals in your diet, especially Vitamin D and calcium, which are essential for bone health.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Drinking water is essential for overall health and can help with muscle function.
  7. Get Adequate Sleep: Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
  8. Manage Stress: High levels of stress can be detrimental to muscle growth. Engage in stress-reducing activities like meditation, walking, or spending time with loved ones.
  9. Consult a Doctor: Before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions or haven’t exercised in a long time, consult a healthcare professional.
  10. Stay Consistent: Muscle building is a slow process requiring consistency. Stick to your program, and don’t be discouraged by slow progress.
  11. Incorporate Functional Exercises: Including exercises that mimic everyday activities can be very beneficial. This can help not just in building muscle but also in improving the quality of life.
  12. Remember that muscle building after 60 might not be as rapid as it is in younger individuals. Still, the benefits, including increased strength, improved bone density, and better overall health, are well worth the effort.

Age-related muscle changes are an integral part of human biology. A 10-year-old’s muscles are in a phase of growth and development, while a 60-year-old’s muscles have undergone various physiological changes, including reductions in mass, strength, and recovery capabilities. Engaging in regular physical activities and maintaining a balanced diet can help mitigate some of age-associated muscle degeneration.

[1] Rosenberg, I. H. (1997). Sarcopenia: origins and clinical relevance. Journal of Nutrition, 127(5), 990S-991S.
[2] Janssen, I., Shepard, D. S., Katzmarzyk, P. T., & Roubenoff, R. (2004). The healthcare costs of sarcopenia in the United States. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 52(1), 80-85.
[3] Lexell, J. (1995). Human aging, muscle mass, and fiber type composition. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 50(Special_Issue), 11-16.
[4] Brack, A. S., & Rando, T. A. (2007). Intrinsic changes and extrinsic influences of myogenic stem cell function during aging. Stem Cell Reviews, 3(3), 226-237.
[5] Morley, J. E., Baumgartner, R. N., Roubenoff, R., Mayer, J., & Nair, K. S. (2001). Sarcopenia. Journal of Laboratory and Clinical Medicine, 137(4), 231-243.
[6] Gajdosik, R. L. (2001). Passive extensibility of skeletal muscle: a review of the literature with clinical implications. Clinical Biomechanics, 16(2), 87-101.