Boring? Sometimes. Worthwhile? Sure. Benefits while aging? Can be fantastic.
One of the sad and unpleasant effects of aging for a great many people is the gradual loss of muscle mass. But apparently it doesn’t have to be that way. Two studies of master athletes in their 60s and 80s show that such athletes preserve a greater number of “motor units” in their legs: pairs of muscle fibers together with neurons connecting them to the spinal cord. With age, there is a tendency for the neurons to die. In younger people, new neurons are generated to replace the ones that die. However, in older people, they are not replaced, leading to the death of the originally attached muscle fiber. Two studies of older master athletes show that serious exercise can resist this scenario.
Here are links to two media articles about the research on both 60- and 80-year old master athletes:
Can the inevitable age-related decrement in motor unit number and stability be out run?
Exercise Makes Our Muscles Work Better With Age
Here is a link to the research based on 60-year-olds:
Motor unit number estimates in masters runners: use it or lose it?
And here is a link to the research based on 80-year olds:
Motor unit number and transmission stability in octogenarian world class athletes
So — master-level athletes can maintain muscle mass. But, you say, they must spend an awful lot of time at it. Well sure, as the saying goes: No pain, no gain, including the pain of time spent. But what if you’ve gotten into middle or advanced age masquerading as a couch potato? Is it all over for you? Fortunately, not.
A recent media article describes how intense strength training, combined with good nutrition, can hold the line or even reverse it:
How to build muscle as age tears it down
Here’s the research report mentioned in the article above about counteracting muscle weakness and physical frailty in very elderly people by using high-intensity resistance exercise training:
Exercise Training and Nutritional Supplementation for Physical Frailty in Very Elderly People
And now for the inspiration! Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the notorious RGB) is an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, is 85 years old, and works out twice-weekly in the Supreme Court gym with her personal trainer. “She attributes her long career as a liberal legal icon to the sweat time she puts in with her trainer.” Her trainer has written an “exercise along with RGB” book:
The RBG Workout: How She Stays Strong . . . and You Can Too!
Here’s a media article about the book:
Get fit with the Ruth Bader Ginsburg workout
And just for fun, here’s a video of Stephen Colbert trying to workout out with the notorious RGB:
Colbert attempts Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s workout
All links have been added to Health > Physical Exercise