A real life lesson in muscle loss and aging

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So normally here on the blog the vibe is all about discovering your own fitness groove. Find something you enjoy and do that, we say, because if fitness finds its way into your life as one more thing you have to do, another tedious, unpleasant, time consuming task, it’s very hard to stick with it.

Add pleasure to your life by finding a form of movement you enjoy.

Along with “start small” it’s probably the most common piece of fitness we give.

Three years ago I remember pushing myself to branch out and give advice to a reader who hated exercise and who just wanted the health benefits. I said they should figure out what is necessary–strength training for bone health, cardio for heart health, something for flexibility and mobility– and then regular, everyday exercise, and make a plan to fit it in.

Now in this case, the reader did ask so we were on solid ground I think offering up our advice.

But there’s another theme lurking just below the surface at the blog. Lately I’ve been wanting to stand up and yell from a soapbox about women and the need for strength training. It might not be the thing that brings you joy but it might be necessary for functional fitness and independent living as you age.

The numbers are striking. Here’s this from a recent New York Times piece,

“Aging causes muscles to lose mass, bone density to thin and joints to stiffen — affecting our balance, coordination and strength. At the same time, hormonal shifts and persistent low-level inflammation can set the stage for chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

And the changes start earlier than you might think. Muscles begin to shrink in our 30s and continue their downward spiral in midlife, with up to 25 percent of their peak mass gone by the time we’re 60.

But there’s hope: Exercise can stall muscle loss, cognitive decline and fatigue. “It’s never too late to start exercising, and it’s never too early,” Chhanda Dutta, a gerontologist at the National Institute on Aging, said.”

Women have been sold a bill of goods about fitness. There’s the focus on thinness, on appearance, and the over emphasis on cardio fitness over strength training. These things are also planks in my soapbox.

I was in hospital recently, after my knee replacement surgery, I was struck by how many of my elderly hospital roommates lacked the upper body strength to perform basic functional movements. Yes, they’d just had joint surgery but some of them struggled to be able to move themselves around in bed.

I think I said after the last surgery that using the toilet after knee surgery all of a sudden one legged pistol squats made a lot more sense. After this visit, core and tricep strength seemed pretty essential to a hospital stay where you’ve got some control over how you position yourself in bed. It felt like a lesson about muscle loss, strength training, and aging.

Now it maybe that we are over valuing independence. Maybe we should care less about it. I think this is a genuinely hard question. But to the extent that we do care about it, we should be in the gym lifting weights.

Training for my summer body? Fuck no! I’m training for my old lady body.. Dense bones. String muscles. A healthy heart. Good balance. Functional independence.

Here’s another example of the kind of rants I’m drawn to,

And you don’t necessarily need any fancy equipment.

Woman wearing hijab doing push-ups on wooden bench in park. Photo by  Ola Alghazzouli  on  Scopio

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Celebrating our best lives at fifty and beyond! 50ismorefun brings you motivational news and stories centered around life, fitness, fashion, money, travel and health for active folks enjoying the second half of lives.