Issues relevant to an ageing workforce: Muscular strength

Written by Terry Wong


Does pumping iron belong in the workplace?

Once you hit 30 years, your total physical strength is on the decline – just when you are feeling like you are hitting your prime! The trend continues into your 40s and by the time you are 50, expect to start losing up to 15 per cent muscular strength per decade (Keller & Engelhardt, 2014 1). This goes in some way to explain the increase in musculoskeletal disorders as we age.

Why? I hear you ask.

The mechanisms are multifactorial. As we age, the number of muscle fibres decreases, as does how well the nervous system fires them – and even when they do, their output is reduced. This is triggered by a reduction in the production of anabolic hormones like testosterone amongst others.

The decrease in physical activity is a key factor in the loss of muscular strength as it leads to muscular atrophy. As a result, strength training is an important tool to counteract this problem.

While the evidence for resistance training and its impact on muscular strength has been well-founded, its effect on workplace injuries is still being researched. A 2014 study compared strength training and ergonomic training and found that strength training appears to be effective in preventing deterioration in work ability among slaughterhouse workers with chronic pain and work disability (Sundstrup et al., 2014 2).

Anyone have any stories to tell about the impact of resistance programs in the workplace?


1 Keller, K. & Engelhardt, M. (2014) Strength and muscle mass loss with aging process. Age and strength loss. Muscles Ligaments Tendons J. 2013 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 346–350.

2 Sundstrup E, Jakobsen MD, Brandt M, Jay K, Persson R, Aagaard P, Andersen LL. (2014) Workplace strength training prevents deterioration of work ability among workers with chronic pain and work disability: a randomized controlled trial. Scan J Work Environ Health 2014; 40(3): 244-251

About the Author

Terry Wong

Terry Wong

Terry Wong is General Manager of Move 4 Life, the benchmark in preventing sprain and strain injuries and future-proofing an ageing workforce. Move 4 Life helps companies send employees home to their families safely each day.

A Physiotherapist by-trade, Terry has spent the last 14 years in workplace rehabilitation, occupational health, injury-prevention and training. He has held a position as Chair of the Occupational Health Group of the Australian Physiotherapy Association and is widely published on these subjects.

You can find Terry’s LinkedIn profile here.

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