By Karen Trom from the June 2011 Edition
Change Your Choices, Change your Life
It is a common fitness myth that part of aging is becoming weaker. Yes, you lose muscle mass but no, you don’t have to accept being “weak.” My grandma was strong as a horse until the day she died but she used to carry buckets of chicken feed, pails of water, mowed the lawn with a push mower, maintained a huge garden, and shoveled snow without a snow blower. She even had to get off the couch to change the channel in those rare moments that she had time to watch TV! Now that we are primarily a sedentary society, we no longer have this type of physical activity in our lives so we need to find other ways to stay strong.
Beginning at age 25, a physically inactive person will begin losing muscle mass and muscle strength each year. After the age of 60, the rate of muscle loss doubles and after 70, muscle mass and muscle strength decline even more. . This doubling continues every ten years until death. Because of this, we need to be proactive and keep muscles strong and healthy so that we are able to stay stable, sure footed and strong enough to do basic things like getting out of a chair, climbing steps or putting dishes into a cupboard.
I have been teaching strength classes at the YMCA for several years and am constantly amazed at how training 2-3 times per week can not only strengthen but tone your body and help you feel energized. One obstacle that I constantly run into with my female students is the fear of getting “bulky” if they lift weights. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Women who weight train will find that their body becomes tighter and toned and their clothes will fit much better. Five pounds of muscle takes up a lot less space than five pounds of fat! Unless you have a testosterone problem or are taking supplements (legal or illegal), you will not look like a bodybuilder rom lifting weights.
It isn’t only women who will benefit from strength training; men need to work on their muscles as well. An informal poll of men in my classes revealed that most men lift weights to have big muscles and impress the ladies, they don’t ever consider the health benefits such as lowered blood pressure and blood sugar levels! While men are built with more muscle than women, muscles will naturally experience atrophy if the body is largely inactive; if you don’t use the muscles, you will likely lose them.
In addition to age related deterioration, poor nutrition is also a key factor in muscle loss. Muscles need protein to grow and if your diet is high in sugar and low in protein, your muscles will not have the fuel they need to regenerate resulting in muscle loss.