Thursday, April 5, 2012

Muscles and Air Miles. They're Similar.

Muscle. You work to build it and continue to work to keep it so if you don't respect it, it won't stick around. Further, we believed that as we grew older we would experience a decline in muscle simply as a side effect of aging. Not so say recent studies by Dr. Vonda Wright. We've all heard the old saying Use It Or Lose It. We hear it about our brains, our Aeroplan miles and yes, our muscles. If you've done any sort of resistance or cardiovascular exercise you might have noticed that once you stop so do many of the benefits. Simply - the benefits seize from a lack of use. Imagine that.

So this study by Dr. Wright is supported further by a group of scientists from the University of Western Ontario who had similar findings. This is definitely something to get excited about. Until now we've expected to lose muscle at about the age of 40 but according to these findings we don't have to become heavier and weaker. It seems that a very important factor had generally been ignored when studying the decline of muscle with age: subjects had generally been sedentary. This is not the case today as we often hear of amazing feats by those in their golden years. So how do the muscles of our older active adults weigh against those who are decades younger? Well after performing a series of strength and fitness tests and also conducting MRI scans ''...neither leg muscle size nor strength declined significantly with age among the subjects, suggesting that regular training had warded off the muscle-wasting effects of aging. The sample MRIs showed virtually indistinguishable quadriceps in a 40-year-old triathlete compared with a 70-year-old triathlete. In contrast, the quadriceps of a 74-year-old sedentary man were shriveled and enveloped in fat...”

So of course this got me thinking. When it comes to our physical abilities and expectations should we stop looking at our age? What if we removed the expectation that we will continue to decline with the suggestion that what you can do at 40 you can do at 70, 80 and beyond! Think of people like octogenarian Ed Whitlock and centenarian Fauja Singh who are setting world records. Perhaps we simply need to put ourselves in environments to succeed with the only pre-existing notion of - You Will. It's Possible. Age is Just a Number.

Ernestine Shepherd, 73
But of course as wonderful as all this is there is a caveat. Although the legs of these individuals were almost indistinguishable, there was decline in other regions of the body. It may suggest that no one type of exercise alone will give you the best results. Variety is just as important as full body resistance training. Just consider that 73 year old grandmother, Ernestine Shepherd, is bench pressing 150 pounds, curling up to 20 pounds and runs 80 miles per week. So hit the gym, grab some weights and the next time you find yourself blowing out candles know that the number of candles say one thing but your muscles say another.

Enjoy yourself in good health and fitness/gena.