Sunday, December 4, 2011

How Our Muscles Age

        I read many excellent posts on aging. Topics covered are health, elder care and the  loss of parents, siblings, children and friends. Volunteering to assist elderly people is another large issue that many people are involved in. People become acutely aware of their aging and begin to think of their own end. People look in the obituaries and start to see that many of the people who die are younger than they are. 

       But there's another  factor I would like to look at. That is the process that gradually happens to our muscles. As we age we become weaker and this brings about difficulties in mobility and participating in daily activities.

      Today I listened to a radio documentary on a 92 year old woman who trains and  competes in all track and field  events. She holds world records in her age category in all track and field events except one. If I considered doing long jump my body would be jarred so severely that I may not be able to move again. This 92 year old trains four or five days a week and travels all over North America to compete. She is compared to someone who would be twenty years younger than her.

      Scientists are interested in this woman to see if there is a gene that allows her to  be so strong at this age. They want to know why she is so very strong while others that age are very weak.

     At about age 75 we lose a large percentage of our strength. Muscles are composed of  particles which are like  "trees". These particles are beside each other head to head and mesh with each other. This is what the process of stretching involves. We stretch the little particles to bring about better use of the whole muscle.  As we age the "trees" move further apart. In our seventies the "trees" are actually beside each other and do not mesh. From this point on the "trees" move further apart and we steadily lose strength. Scientists know that his process happens but they don't know much else.

     So that is why scientists are interested in the ninety two year old who competes in track. They want to know if there is a certain type of gene she has that the rest of us don't have that allows her this extraordinary strength. 

     If they find something, it's already too late for me. Getting up from the floor now takes me great  effort!


  1. Hmmmmm!
    I have a mate who is in his early 70's. He competes in the Masters Games in his age group - the 400 metres hurdles! And wins - has quite a few Gold Medals, probably would thrash the daylights out of most obese schoolkids!
    This year, besides attending the Calgary Stampede, he went to Colorado in the summer months and did a two week hiking trip of the Aspen area. Presently he is on safari in Africa!
    Maybe it is in the "genes"????
    I was an excellent athlete until my back gave way. On my present trip when I was at Cootamundra awaiting the "Train to Hell - the XPT from Melbourne" - late by 90 minutes ( as is the norm) - I decided to walk up to the centre of the town to go to the club!!!
    Liquid refreshments were required, however, it was raining and had been for 6 days, so the roads were pretty water-loggged! One expanse of water looked jumpable - well it wasn't anymore for me. So besides the train delay, the rain, I was now able to add soaked sneakers and socks!
    Yes, it is in some genes and not in others. Please keep me updated with the medical conclusions of your grand old lady!

  2. Hiking with a fifty pound pack and jumping streams used to be easy. Now just to walk it would be a killer. I'm getting soft.
    I've never heard of this lady before.

  3. I am a relatively young 69, but I've been exercising most of my adult life. I didn't even realize it, but now I'm addicted to it. At the YMCA where I work out, many people are well into their seventies and eighties and seem pretty strong to me. The oldest person in my hiking group is 81, and he keeps up with the rest of us, no problem. His wife is 75, and I can't keep up with her! So it's possibly related to genes, and the old adage, "use it or lose it." :-)

  4. DJan, I'm sure that fitness counts for very much. I work hard on stretching and exercise...not as much as I'd like.
    Your addiction routine is very positive.

  5. Far Side, nobody danced! Midnight sales are just starting here. I'll skip them too although I was persuaded to do an early morning sale a while ago.

  6. Just keep moving, keith. Tou don't have to run a marathon, but walking and skating do help.

  7. I'll keep moving Phil. Gotta keep moving these days or I might freeze!

  8. From what I have read, the muscles don't have to lose their strength if we use them in the same ways and keep them strong...

  9. Yes, Judy the use it or lose it factor goes a long way. Nevertheless, this change does take place. We can make a difference with activity but how much they don't know.

  10. I suspect that DJan's last line counts for an awful lot.. much like brain power.

  11. Hilary , you've got it right. We don't have to look very hard to find people who haven't used it. This also0 applies to our heads as well.

  12. I've seen a number of clients who aren't particularly happy at age 92. This woman is an exception!
    I rather wonder if our bodies can last much longer than this.
    I'm happy to leave this world to the young people!

  13. Jenn you're absolutely right about most 92 year olds not being particularly happy. My Dad lived to 95 but he was ready to die at about age 90. His quality of life wasn't great after ninety. He'd been very active to eighty five.

  14. My Granny was good until 95...then her body began to deteriorate...even her doctors told her it was an age thing...her mind was good, and she chose her death time...I think she was relatively happy until that was the body going that caused her to be unhappy...

  15. Hey Judy, I can tell you about the body going at 72. Your Granny had very high quality of life. My Dad had excellent quality of life until 85.

  16. Great blog and post! My Dad is 90 and still rides his exercise bike, 5 miles a day, and doesn't take any medication, and doesn't have one ache in his body! I think that exercise is the key to muscle tone and mobility, at any age. Thanks for stopping by and for your nice comment.

  17. Margruerite, I wish I was like your Dad. He's doing extremely well for his age. I wish him all the best. It makes it much easier for his family.
    Thanks for dropping by Hiawatha House.