Getting Older – Muscle Mass Matters

It’s the craziest thing.  I know I’m about to turn 42, but I don’t see myself the way I know I saw the 40-somethings that inhabited my childhood.  And when I look at my friends–all the people I went to high school and college with–I don’t see the years that have passed.  I see what they were when we were kids.

The truth of the matter, though, is that we have changed.  And as we age, we will continue to change in ways that are visually unapparent but completely undeniable.

One of those ways that can cause more problems than we might think is muscle loss.  Our muscles are the calorie burners of our bodies.  People often put their weight loss effort into cardio.  Cardio’s great.  I’m a big advocate.  But to really get the pounds off, one has to build muscle.  Therefore, as we age and our muscles deteriorate, we can get hit with a double whammy:  weight gain and loss of strength.

NPR ran a story on the science muscle loss in the elderly  this morning (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123887823).  It was a good reminder that what we do now can make a big difference in the long run.

As a middle-aged woman, I’m trying to plan ahead.  Working out is as much for how I feel today as it is for how I’ll feel 30 years from now.  A regular workout routine that contains a serious weight training component can mean the difference between greater or lesser muscle loss and the corresponding benefits or detriments.

Another tremendous benefit of weight training is an increase in bone density.  Women, in particular, can suffer from bone loss resulting in serious breaks as we age.  We can work to preclude that by starting as soon as possible and maintaining a consistent routine.  And it’s never too late.  Weight training can rebuild bone density, even for seniors.

I’m a long-term, big picture thinker.  The view from the proverbial 10,000 feet has been a good tool for keeping things in perspective and making decisions that I find worthy of commitment.  Spending even just 20-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week doing weight training will pay exponential dividends in terms of quality of life.  This is something that is totally worth my investment–no matter how old my friends and I look to one another.

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