Effect of gender, age, and anthropometry on axial and appendicular muscle strength

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 2001 May;80(5):330-8. doi: 10.1097/00002060-200105000-00002.


Objective: To assess age and gender differences in muscle strength.

Design: The strength of back extensors, upper limbs (grip), and lower limbs (knee extensors) was measured. Anthropometric measurements and body mass index also were assessed.

Results: Group comparisons were made for each decade. Back extensor strength (BES) in subjects aged 20 to 89 yr ranged from 93 to 832 N in men and from 71 to 440 N in women. BES peaked in the fourth decade for men and in the fifth decade for women. When the two genders were compared, muscle strength in women was less than that in men at all ages. At different decades, women's BES ranged from 54% to 76% compared with that of men's BES. There was a 64% loss of BES in men from the peak in their fourth decade (556 N) to the lowest level in their ninth decade (201 N). Women experienced a 50.4% loss from the peak in their fifth decade (306 N) to the lowest level in their ninth decade (152 N).

Conclusions: Men had a greater loss of BES than women with increasing age. In both genders, there was more loss of BES than appendicular muscle strength. Reduction in BES in women coincided with increased body mass index in older age. In women, there was a negative correlation between body weight and level of physical activity, whereas this finding was not evident in men. Background factors related to a higher incidence of back pain, falls, and fractures, especially in women, may be a reduction in muscle strength, along with increasing age and body mass index. This cross-sectional study showed that physiologic reduction of muscle strength, which began early in life, later stopped and that muscle strength even improved, despite the aging process. Therefore, initiating strengthening exercises at any age is encouraged to prevent the impact of several age-related musculoskeletal challenges.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Anthropometry*
  • Back / physiology
  • Female
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Knee / physiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Sex Characteristics