I could hardly believe my eyes. It was the late 1980’s. I was reading a magazine article reporting some of the early research coming out of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston. Specifically, my “visual distrust” stemmed from the results of one of the studies.
First, a bit of background. Several years earlier, in my late 30’s, and after several years of repeated back and shoulder issues, I decided to begin resistance training. I picked up some used weights at a garage sale and read a book on training written by a former Mister Universe. Training began in my garage and I soon began to see improvements in my functional strength and endurance. I figured that I should at least improve my enjoyment of life for a few more years.
That’s when I read the magazine article. What jumped off the page was a study in which researchers put a group of 20-somethings and a second group, aged 80 yrs. and up, on a three-month regimen of eating the same diet and undertaking the same progressive resistance training. Even the researchers were surprised at the results: all of the participants gained muscle mass. A 96-yr. old put on muscle mass at the same rate as the 20-somethings! Ongoing studies showed that “elderly” people are able to increase strength by as much as 200%! The combination of muscle mass, strength and cardiovascular fitness seemed to be rewriting the story of aging.
Then and there I committed to a life-long experiment with myself as the guinea pig to see if the research really held water. Now, in my 72nd year, I have maintained my strength; indeed, in some areas, I am stronger than I ever have been, and certainly much stronger than I was in my 30’s. After retirement, I was certified as a Personal Training Specialist, followed by certification as a Seniors’ Fitness Instructor . I work part-time as an instructor with the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging (CCAA), a research centre of Western University in Ontario, Canada. As a volunteer with the YMCA for the last several years, I have had access to equipment I could only have dreamed of during my decades in the garage — the image of a kid in a candy store comes to mind!
Although there have been countless studies over the last 30 years with results similar to those early years at Tufts (including many at the CCAA), it seems very few are getting the message, so here it is:
“Most of how you age is up to you!”