Last week at the doctor’s office, there was an older woman, maybe in her 70s, sitting in the waiting room. She had an average-thin build, not bony, and from what I saw, seemed mobile, sharp, and relatively healthy.
This woman was called back before me. She started to stand, got a few inches up, then fell back into the chair. As she pushed herself up again, this time using her arms, she grumbled loudly about how ridiculous this was, seemingly embarrassed by her situation. The incident only lasted a few seconds – the woman propelled herself up the second time before anyone had time to help her – and she walked back into the medical area. Other than the failure to make it up that first time, she gave no appearance of needing assistance of any kind.
Years back, I read an article that discussed the correlation between grip strength and longevity. It said that in older folks, grip strength was the biggest predictor of health and lifespan, because grip strength was a good indicator of overall muscle mass/strength. We lose muscle as we age, especially after age 50, and the more deterioration, the more likely we become to experience aging perils like falls. There’s more to the studies than just this, but the general gist is that more muscle/strength equals longer life and better quality of life.
Not a shocking or surprising statement by any stretch of the imagination, of course. We all know that building muscle is good, losing muscle is bad. And this is where diet culture comes in, because again as we know, weight-cycling, yo-yo dieting, and rapid weight loss is a recipe for major muscle loss. Muscle drop leads to a drop in metabolism, which leads to easier weight gain and the need for a more severe calorie deficit to lose weight, which causes further muscle loss…and the cycle continues.
Thankfully, I’ve managed to retain a large muscle mass as my weight has fluctuated over the years, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t lost any. As I go through my 40s and move toward my 50s, that’s only going to get worse – unless I take action. Here’s the thing, though. I hate lifting weights. I didn’t used to, but I’ve realized that I only like strength-training in a group setting. Otherwise, I get soooooo bored. So I know that I need to either find a group to work with, or a not-boring program that incorporates strength work. Or both.
I don’t want to end up in a place where it’s hard for me to get out of a chair. Already, my autoimmune disorders cause inflammatory flairs that limit mobility, and I get so frustrated when that means that I can’t do simple movements. I don’t want muscle-loss to add to that, either age-related or diet-related. I’d rather be fat and strong than thin and brittle.
Anyone have any suggestions?