Question & Answer

Do older men who engage in strenuous strength training require longer recovery periods than younger athletes to maximise strength gains?

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  • The World Health Organisation recommends that in addition to aerobic exercise, adults aged 18-64 years should also do muscle-strengthening activities that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these provide additional health benefits.
  • Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, and squats.
  • It is known that aging causes reductions in muscle mass and strength, which can impact how the muscles and skeleton work. Muscle-strengthening exercise can help people maintain and improve their muscle strength as they get older.
  • It may therefore be expected that men aged 50 to 60 years who engage in strenuous strength training would require longer recovery periods than younger athletes.
  • In a number of studies (Study 1, Study 2, Study 3, Study 4, Study 5) that compared recovery measures (like muscle damage) in younger and middle-aged men after resistance exercise, middle-aged men demonstrated similar recovery to the younger men. However, another study (Study 6) reports findings that conflict with this, suggesting recovery after lower-body resistance exercise is greater in trained middle-aged males than in their young counterparts.
  • None of these studies had a middle-aged group of strictly 50-60 years – for example, some studies also included people who were slightly younger (Study 1: 45-49 years; Study 2: 40-49 years; Study 6: 35-49 years) or slightly older (Study 5: average age 66.9 years) in the sample. While this includes men aged 50-60 years, it means that the evidence we have isn’t just focused on that group. It could be that men in this specific age group have similar or different recovery periods than men aged 40 to 70 years.
  • Therefore, future research with a specific age group of 50-60 years is required to directly address the above query. Such research will need to consider the influence of things like type of exercise, degree of muscle damage, training age of the person, health conditions and frequency and intensity of training.

Things to Remember

  • Beware of claims that are based on a single study. Ask if other studies examine the same question and, ideally, if there a careful summary of all the relevant studies.
  • Whenever possible, use up-to-date summaries (systematic reviews) of fair comparisons to inform decisions.


  • Lead Researcher: Dr. Caoimhe Madden, Postdoctoral researcher, Evidence Synthesis Ireland, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Galway
  • Reviewed by: Prof Declan Devane, Professor of Health Research Methodology, Deputy Dean, College of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Galway, Scientific Director, HRB-Trials Methodology Research Network Director, Evidence Synthesis Ireland. Director, Cochrane Ireland
  • Topic advisor: Dr Kevin Cradock, Lecturer, Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Atlantic Technological University, Sligo.
  • Public and Patient advisor: Anne Daly, Public and Patient Involvement in research (PPI) advisor, PPI Ignite, NUI Galway
  • Journalist Advisor: Dr. Claire O’Connell, PhD in cell biology, MSc Communication. Contributor to The Irish Times, writing about health, science and innovation.

Conflict of Interest Statement: The authors have no financial or other conflicts of interest for this health claim summary.