For the month of October, I’m writing about terrifying things- like LACK of MUSCLE MASS!!! Imagine this whole post read in a deep ominous voice)
My sister in-law told me this story about when she was in nursing school, she did some practicum hours at a flu shot clinic. Mostly old people came to the clinic- I can’t remember if it was at a senior center or not. So, when you try to inject intra-muscularly into someone with no muscles, there’s a little “ping” when the needle hits the bone. (umm…trigger warning, but I did give this a spooky Halloween heading) Terrifying! Keep muscle as you age!!
The scientific term for loss of muscle as we age is sarcopenia. The hormones just aren’t there anymore, and we are far more likely to lose muscle than gain it. Here’s what’s crazy- the process can start at age 30. So we have to pedal uphill, essentially. We need to carry heavy things, in order to maintain the muscles we have now, and carry heavier things to build muscles. (Or carry heavy things farther…or literally, pedal uphill.)
Yoga helps with this, you are bearing weight on your arms and keeping bone mass as well as muscles. There are some yoga class with a strength emphasis, using dumbbells to add weight to movements ordinarily done with just body weight. Martial arts is good as well, although my preferred variety, Taekwondo, doesn’t do a whole lot for the upper body, we kick more than we punch, so our leg muscles are getting a workout, but the arm muscles not so much.
Weight lifting obviously helps- I’ve got a pull-up bar in my kitchen doorway, and work on partial pull-ups while I wait for tea water to boil, or the microwave to beep. I don’t have to go to a gym.
Walking helps- (interestingly, walking is really good for brain health as you age, too, this probably deserves another post- pressure on your feet helps push blood to your brain at optimum levels- walking is better in a way that running isn’t- weird, huh? Carrying stuff in your hands as you walk helps build muscles as well. You knew there was a reason you had that giant purse, right? Also, the coffee cup that goes everywhere with you? That’s just me? Oh.
Two great books have really helped me get my brain around this idea of getting old without getting feeble. One is Younger Next Year for Women (there is a men’s edition as well, but I haven’t read it- not sure if they just painted the men’s edition pink, or if there are big changes between the two.) The other book is Dynamic Aging, by Katy Bowman, who is my movement guru. They are both filled with great ideas about aging well.