Have you ever really stared at the arms of your grandmother or grandfather?
At a certain age, their arms – particularly the upper parts, where skin hits a short sleeve – become a sort of floppy wing, muscle disappearing into not-quite-fat-but-fat. This is part of aging. It also makes you wonder what exactly is happening to the body when you don’t “lose it” and don’t “use it.” Do we just turn into wings?
Yes and no. A recent New York Times story explored this subject, bemoaning a condition called sarcopenia. This is where your skeletal muscle declines, which will likely happen by half by the time you reach your seventies. You become less strong and, as the author writes, your insides start to look like a “well-marbled steak.” Delicious and gnarly.
As the article notes, the thing about this issue is that it isn’t limited to just the elderly and is “what osteoporosis is to bone.” It’s quite serious. Thankfully, this is a use-it-or-lose-it type of situation: lift a weight. That’s literally all you have to do.
If you’re currently sedentary or have a serious chronic illness, check first with your doctor. But as soon as you get the go-ahead, start a strength-training program using free weights, resistance bands or machines, preferably after taking a few lessons from a physical therapist or certified trainer.
This shit works too as a 1980s study of older men who strength trained for 12 weeks saw their muscles coming back. It’s possible to prevent this! You just have to work at it. This is important because, once you get to the age where falling is a thing where you “can’t get up,” having muscles helps you literally escape and recover quicker.
While you’re at this elderly health kick, consider playing tennis. Why? “Adults who reported frequently participating in tennis or other racket and team sports lived longer than people who were sedentary,” the Times explains. “Social aspects of racket games and other team sports are a primary reason that they seem to lengthen lives.”
Lift weights and play games where you are talking to other people. Rules for aging that we can all abide by.