How Body Build Changes with Age

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  • 0:01 Age
  • 1:00 Skeletal
  • 2:02 Muscle
  • 2:55 Nervous
  • 3:46 Organ
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Watch this lesson for a brief discussion of the physical and mechanical changes that occur to the human body and its systems as we age. Some of the body systems covered include skeletal, muscular, organ, and nervous systems.


There is an unfortunate tendency to think of development, age, and maturation as the domain of childhood and adolescence; somehow, once you've reached 20 you're done growing and changing. The assumption is that you remain the same way from your 20th birthday until you get really old. This doesn't make any sense when you start thinking about it. You are not the same 'you' from five years ago, let alone 10, 20, or more! Like you are some kind of Dorian Grey or something.

Maturation is the process of development. We continue to mature our entire lives, changing in new ways. Some are okay, some are not so good, and some are really bad. Let's look at some of the most obvious changes that occur as we mature - changes to the body.


Your skeleton is a collection of a mineralized tissue that helps keep us standing upright. As we grow, our skeleton grows with us. A large part of how big it gets is dependent on our genetics. It is also our genes that dictate how they will stay after we stop growing.

As we eat, minerals like calcium are extracted from our food and stored in our bones. Our genes and food decide whether we have enough minerals in them or not. If we do not get enough calcium in our food, or we have a particular set of genes that doesn't process it very well, then the bone changes are much more dramatic.

Aging means that the bones get thinner and smaller, but not shorter. Becoming shorter is actually due to a loss of fluid in the joints, particularly in the spine. The bones will also lose minerals, resulting in brittle and easily broken bones. That's the double whammy - they are smaller and they're more prone to breaking.


Attached to the skeleton are the muscles. Like the skeletal system, as we age, the muscles lose some of their strength and are replaced with fibrous tissue that isn't muscle. This means that we lose overall strength and is the reason why you don't see many weight lifters who are our grandparents' age

Loss of endurance is also an issue as the muscles and the cardiovascular system supporting it age and become weaker. This is another reason we don't see many World Wrestling Federation old-agers. They just can't keep up physically, and their bones can't take the pounding.

Tremors are also fairly common as we age and mature, and not the giant worm kind ('90s jokes are still cool, right?). However, this has only a small percentage to do with the muscle itself and more to do with the wiring, or neuronal involvement.


Your nervous system is mostly composed of fat around neurons. Fat helps insulate the cell, making it fire faster as well as keeping the wires from crossing. Most older people tend to get thinner as they get older. This means there is reduced insulation on their neural network and an increase in cross-firing when you get axonal bundles together.

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