A terrific talk on aging I heard a while ago pointed out something that I had never considered but which seems to be quite true, and it’s a very depressing thought.
This aging expert pointed out that although you often see pictures of a 70-year-old doing something quite amazing like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, but you never see an 85-year-old doing something similar.
That’s because, he said, of age-related frailty, meaning that we lose our muscle strength as we grow older.
Thus, it’s commonly said that we lose roughly 1 % of our muscle mass every year beyond the age of 40, and eventually – sometime between 75 and 85 for nearly all of us – we reach a tipping point of lost muscle mass when we can’t do so many – or even any – of the things we used to do so easily years before.
So the great news is that maybe that doesn’t have to happen.
In a study with terrifically hopeful possibilities, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined 40 competitive athletes – runners, cyclists, swimmers – between the ages of 40 and 81, and the researchers found that – quite to their surprise – that not only did those athletes have as much muscle tissue as people decades younger than them, they also remained nearly as strong as many people a couple of decades younger than them.
Now, clearly these were elite athletes and very few of us are able to train as much as these people do.
But this isn’t an all-or-none situation so seems to me that even some regular exercise can delay or postpone that heretofore seemingly inevitable frailty that the elderly suffer and which condemns so many seniors to having to give up their independence.
And honestly, doesn’t some exercise done a few times a week seem like a small price to pay for raising your chances to live a longer independent life down the line?