Last month I turned 36 years old.
After low back surgery, years of back pain, gaining 32 pounds of fat, and too many injuries to count, I’m incredibly happy & grateful to say that I feel awesome.
I’ve never been stronger, better conditioned, and more flexible than I am now.
Here’s a recent photo of me taken after a workout:
Many people believe that as you get older, you get stiffer. You gain more weight. You lose your vitality.
Study after study suggest there’s nothing you can do about it; you will gain fat and lose muscle as you age.
It just happens. Deal with it!
There’s a BIG flaw with these studies. Just because the study participants gained fat and lost muscle as they aged, doesn’t mean aging caused the fat gain and muscle loss!
In other words, these studies do not prove causality.
There are other studies you probably haven’t seen that tell a very different story.
For example, one study showed the leg of a 70 year old triathlete is indistinguishable from that of a much younger triathlete.3
In this same study, the researchers noted that, “This study contradicts the common observation that muscle mass and strength decline as a function of aging alone. Instead, these declines may signal the effect of chronic disuse rather than muscle aging.”4
They also noted that not only can muscle mass be preserved, but also function may be maintained as well, “This maintenance of muscle mass and strength may decrease or eliminate the falls, functional decline, and loss of independence that are commonly seen in aging adults.”
Another study demonstrated that even men in their 80’s can still be active athletes:
“Despite the inevitable changes that occur in muscle structure and function with aging, the elderly highly trained and highly skilled elite athlete is still able to compete into his eighties in a wide variety of sports activities at a level unattainable by less gifted and less well trained young people”5
Yes, aging is a biological process. Our bodies change over time. At some point, it will be more difficult to gain muscle. You will begin losing muscle mass and overall strength.
You have time. Even if you’re in your 60’s or 70’s, you’ve got time to improve.
Ultimately, you experience what you believe.
If you believe as you get older that you get stiffer, gain more weight, and lose your vitality, then these things will certainly happen to you.
I don’t believe them. I know that I will be better at 65 years old than I am now as long as I don’t get hit by the proverbial bus.
Never stop believing in yourself. Never stop exercising. Never stop learning.
Age gracefully, with strength and purpose!
- St-onge MP, Gallagher D. Body composition changes with aging: the cause or the result of alterations in metabolic rate and macronutrient oxidation?. Nutrition. 2010;26(2):152-5. ↩
- Hunter GR, Gower BA, Kane BL. Age Related Shift in Visceral Fat. Int J Body Compos Res. 2010;8(3):103-108. ↩
- While the difference between the 70 year old and 40 year old leg look indistinguishable, there are changes to the properties of the muscle. One study demonstrated the number of motor units changes with age – Power GA, Allen MD, Gilmore KJ, et al. Motor unit number and transmission stability in octogenarian world class athletes: Can age-related deficits be outrun?. J Appl Physiol. 2016;121(4):1013-1020.
An article in Runner’s World summed this up nicely, “As you get older, starting in (gulp) your 30s, you start losing motor neurons. That’s not great news, because it leaves a bunch of muscle fibers unconnected to the brain. But you can compensate for a while through the process of “collateral reinnervation”: healthy motor neurons sprout new axons to reconnect to the orphaned muscle fibers left behind by the dead motor neuron.
The result is that you have fewer motor units, but can still have roughly the same amount of muscle at your disposal.That typically works until your 60s, and helps to keep the loss of strength and muscle mass relatively gradual. But then the rate of decline typically accelerates sharply, perhaps in part because the process of reinnervation is getting less efficient. Now when a motor neuron dies, you lose those muscles fibers and their associated strength.” ↩
- Wroblewski AP, Amati F, Smiley MA, Goodpaster B, Wright V. Chronic exercise preserves lean muscle mass in masters athletes. Phys Sportsmed. 2011;39(3):172-8. ↩
- Faulkner JA, Davis CS, Mendias CL, Brooks SV. The aging of elite male athletes: age-related changes in performance and skeletal muscle structure and function. Clin J Sport Med. 2008;18(6):501-7. ↩