As a personal trainer in Pasadena, CA one question my clients frequently ask me is if I stop working out will I lose the muscle I gained?
One of the common misunderstandings that float around our everyday culture is the belief that the average lifespan of a person living (choose your own number) hundred years ago was many decades shorter than what it is today. That isn’t to say that advances in healthcare, hygiene, and increased production of food haven’t increased our lifespans from what they were in the past – they certainly have. But those averages take into account the incredibly large numbers of infants and young children who died. Fact is, if you were growing up in the 1400’s and made it to adulthood, you had a very good chance of living into your 60’s or 70’s. The Ancient Greek Philosopher Plato died around 347 BC at the age of 80!
But it is certainly true that overall more people are living longer. But the aging process does take its toll – some age more gracefully than others, and not every 90 year old can go skydiving. But what can we do to keep us healthy in our old age?
Sarcopenia is what doctors call muscle loss due to age. When we’re young we can lose muscle mass and size if we stop working out (or see a significant drop in physical activity) – but as we age we cannot just get back to where we were by picking up the same old regimen. It makes some sense in concept, but also research shows that people over 60 need to engage in even more frequent exercising sessions (e.g. resistance training, lifting weights) to maintain muscle mass/size than they would have had to when they were younger. Maintaining muscle mass is crucial for healthy aging, as it increases aerobic activity, helps metabolise fatty acids, and improves bone and joint health.
So to all my sexagenarians (and older) out there, if you’re looking to live longer and healthier than Charlemagne (died in 824 at 71), Hellenic astronomer Claudius Ptolemy (died in 168 around 78), or Pharaoh Ramesses II (died in 1213 BC at 90 or 91), you’re going to have to keep those workouts going!
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