Reversing the Aging Process through Exercise

Like the pop superstar Cher, do you ever wish you could “turn back time”? While it’s not possible to hop into a time machine and recapture some of the energy and vitality of youth, there is a powerful and cost-effective alternative. Research shows that exercise holds incredible potential to reverse the effects of aging muscles, leading to more strength, improved health, and a better quality of life. 

Muscle Decline Starts Early and Doesn’t Stop

It’s common to experience a progressive loss of muscle mass and strength as you get older. The decline starts around age 25 when the total number of muscle fibers begins to progressively decrease. After 30, we can lose as much as  3-8% of muscle mass per decade¹, with the rate of decline even higher after 60. Shockingly, most men will lose about 30% of their muscle mass over a lifetime

Declining Muscle Strength and Chronic Diseases

This decline in muscle strength due to aging is called sarcopenia. Among the elderly, it’s a significant contributor to disability and frailty³, making them more prone to injuries and falls. 

Sarcopenia can also affect chronic diseases, including: 

  • Diabetes: Muscle tissue plays a vital role in regulating glucose metabolism. With age-related muscle loss, the body’s ability to use glucose efficiently may decrease. This contributes to insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes. (For diabetes patients, muscle weakness and decreased physical activity may worsen insulin sensitivity and glycemic control.)
  • Cardiovascular diseases: Regular exercise is essential for maintaining cardiovascular health. Loss of muscle strength and reduced physical activity levels may increase the risk of hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Weaker muscles also make it more challenging for the heart to pump blood efficiently.
  • Metabolic disorders: Reduced muscle mass and strength can lead to a decline in metabolic rate, which can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
  • Osteoporosis: Strong muscles help support and protect bones. As muscle strength declines, osteoarthritis and fracture risk increase. 

Another significant issue with sarcopenia is its economic burden on the healthcare system. According to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, treating sarcopenia-related health issues in the U.S. costs a staggering $18 billion annually.  

Exercise Can Turn Back the Clock

Despite these somewhat depressing statistics, there is some encouraging news. Studies have shown that regular exercise can counteract the loss of muscle mass and strength commonly associated with aging. 

Exercise may reverse the aging process in muscle fibers by triggering a remarkable phenomenon called epigenetic reprogramming. This is where the chromosomes in the cell’s nuclei undergo positive changes that can make them function more youthfully. 

In addition to the potential to reverse the aging process in the muscles, regular exercise can also play a vital role in preventing muscle loss.⁴ It does this by:

  • Boosting muscle metabolism
  • Improving the mitochondria function (the powerhouse of muscle cells)
  • Regulating the transformation of muscle fiber types 
  • Increasing muscle power. 

The Best Exercise to Reverse Aging

Although all forms of exercise have value, resistance training in particular can have a measurable impact on muscle aging. Resistance training exercises focus on building muscle strength and endurance. It can include using weights and resistance bands, or exercises using only your own body weight such as push-ups, squats, and lunges. 

In a study published in Science Daily, just six months of resistance training rejuvenated muscle tissue in healthy seniors. In a four-month follow-up, most of the older adults were still doing resistance training at home and were still as strong with the same muscle mass.

It’s Never Too Late

No matter your age, the ability to turn back the clock on aging muscles is within reach. Engaging in regular exercise, especially incorporating strength training, holds the power to not only halt the effects of aging but also reverse them. It’s never too late to harness the incredible potential of exercise.

Aaptiv as a Resource

Aaptiv offers a complete fitness solution to help seniors (and everyone else!) get active, stay active, and improve their health and quality of life. Aaptiv Advantage is an all-in-one senior fitness & wellness solution designed to increase engagement of health plan members and drive lower medical loss ratios (MLR’s) for the plan. Aaptiv Advantage offers access to the largest Medicare fitness facility network in the industry, with over 25,000 locations that include many specialty and boutique locations not offered elsewhere. In addition, it provides AI-powered workout plans and on-demand fitness and wellness classes that address specific endurance, flexibility, balance, and strength challenges for seniors.


1 Volpi, Nazemi, Fujita, “Muscle Tissue Changes with Aging”, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, 2004.

2Preserve Your Muscle Mass”, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, 2016. 

3 Roubenoff, R., “Sarcopenia: a Major Modifiable Cause of Frailty in the Elderly”, J. Nutr Health Aging, 2000.

4 Thorpe, M., “How to Fight Sarcopenia”, Healthline, 2017.


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