“I'm 50 years old, and this is the best year of my life.” These are the words of my high school gym teacher, which shocked my classmates and inspired me to start exercising. “Every year I am wiser, have deeper relationships with my friends and family, and as long as I have my health, every year is the best year of my life.”
Unfortunately, many older adults do not have their health. A main reason for this is that the ability of muscle to generate tension decreases by 15-20% per decade for individuals in their 60's and 70's1. This means less strength to get up from a chair, walk several blocks, or navigate stairs. It means an increased chance of having a fall. For many, it can mean a dramatic decrease in quality of life.
However, with exercise individuals can maintain their muscle mass well into their 90's and beyond. This is because the rate of decline in muscle force generation decreases dramatically, to 3.0% per decade, for elderly individuals who maintain a high level of physical activity2. In other words, aging is much easier with exercise.
My gym teacher will be 65 this year, and my guess is that he would still say that this is the best year of his life. While aging is inevitable, exercise is voluntary. Let us all take time to exercise to invest in our health, and make every year the best year of our lives.
by Tom Fairbank, PT, DPT
1. Lindle, RS, et al: Age and gender comparisons of muscle strength of 654 women and men aged 20-93 yr. J Appl Physiol
2. Greig, CA, Botella, J, Young, A: The quadriceps strength of health elderly people remeasured after 8 years. Muscle Nerve
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