Fun Time: You’re Never too Old to Strengthen your Muscles
About two years ago, I joined a gym and started pumping iron. I wanted to get stronger. The results have been amazing. I can finally lift my teenaged son’s backpack.
It’s not easy to gain muscle at my age. I consider myself “middle-aged,” but if you ask my son, he’d say I’m somewhere between “Walmart greeter” and “President.”
Running almost every day and lifting weights three times a week is part of my plan to feel young for as long as I can. The weight training has made other tasks easier; I can carry groceries into my home or luggage to the car without feeling exhausted. When my wife needs someone to get the 20-pound bag of rice from the pantry on a Saturday morning, I do not end up with a sore shoulder pulling my son out of bed.
Weight training not only strengthens our muscles, it helps our muscles and nerves to continue working well together, according to a new study from the Center for Healthy Aging at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.
“Our study shows that heavy weight training can strengthen the connection between the nerves in the spinal cord and the muscles. This will protect the body’s functional ability and reduce the risk of motor neuron death in the spinal cord, which is key to having a well-functioning body,” said Casper Søndenbroe, one of the researchers behind the study.
I have to admit that, until I read about this study, I hadn’t given any thought to the “risk of motor neuron death in the spinal cord.” But if we want to move around freely as we get older, being able to control our bodies is important. Otherwise, our bodies won’t do what we want them to do. This happens to me when I need to climb over a wall. I can get to the top, but when I need to jump down on the other side, my body won’t listen. “Jump!” I say, but it won’t move. In my younger days, I’d be over the wall in an instant. And over the ankle sprain in two weeks.
The Denmark study showed not only that weight training strengthens the connection between nerves and muscles, but also that people of all ages can benefit from this. The researchers observed a group of older men (average age 72) who lifted heavy weights three times a week for four months. The men experienced significant gains in fitness and muscle size.
If you visit Copenhagen, don’t be surprised if an old man at the airport is strong enough to lift your heaviest suitcase off the baggage carousel and fast enough to run off with it.
“We believe heavy weight training is one of the most effective forms of fitness training, regardless of whether you are young and old,” Søndenbroe said.
You do not have to join a gym to lift weights, of course. You can lift your own weight by doing pushups, pullups, lunges, and squats. You can also lift objects around your home, perhaps a dictionary, bag of rice, or the family dog. If you’re a grandparent, don’t miss the opportunity to carry your grandchildren around, as long as they’re under 30. (Pounds, that is.)
Weight training helps you increase muscle mass, as well as bone density. It has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression, diabetes, and laziness. I’m not sure if it actually helps with laziness, but ever since I started lifting weights, I’ve seen an amazing motivational change: my wife is considerably less motivated to call me “lazy bum.”
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Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.
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