I tend cycle my level of exercise with the seasons. Winter in Texas does not qualify as more than a cool Fall day in Northern climes, but the trees do lose their leaves and I do a mild form of hibernation. With Spring comes the growth that stirs me to action.  Some of the trees I hoped the drought did not kill, are dead and need taking out. The meadow is being taken over by thistle. Dianne wants a new meditation spot below the house. So, I’m out doing all that physical labor I put off in Winter and feeling more fit and muscular as a result.

I do feel however a change in strength and coordination as I age and it seems an area to be mindful about. Now loss of muscle mass as a function of age is pretty well documented (Doherty, 2001; Newman et al., 2003; Janssen & Ross , 2005; ). This age-related reduction in skeletal muscle even has a name, sarcopenia (Abellan van Kan, 2009: Visser, 2009). It seems to become more prevalent as we move through the 70s and 80s and to be associated with a variety of factors. However, one consensus is consistent, as we age we get weaker.

Now it seems obvious that a good diet and exercise is about the best thing one can do to prevent or at least slow down this situation. (Fielding, 1995). What sort of exercise is optimal is difficult to proscribe and probably varies with the individual. See Onambélé-Pearson, Breen & Stewart (2010) and Zak, Swine & Grodzicki (2009) for studies of the benefits of various exercise intensities and nutritional approaches.

Science aside, I think there is a functional component to eating, working and living. Carefully regulated diet plans and finely delineated exercise regimens have their place in maintaining wellness, but I feel there is a natural  flow of heath that can be tapped by listening to the land, working it as needed and feeding the body as a result of those labors. This model has a champion in my wife’s hero, Tasha Tudor. Her approach to a long life is worth considering (Tudor & Brown, 1992).

I may stick with Winter hibernation and long Summer days of work. That’s a form of cross-training, right?

Image copyright Tasha Tudor and Family Inc.References

  1. Abellan van Kan G. Epidemiology and consequences of sarcopenia. J Nutr Health Aging, Oct 2009, 13(8), 708-12.
  2. Doherty TJ. The influence of aging and sex on skeletal muscle mass and strength. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, Nov 2001, 4(6), 503-8.
  3. Fielding RA. The role of progressive resistance training and nutrition in the preservation of lean body mass in the elderly. J Am Coll Nutr, Dec 1995, 14(6), 587-94.
  4. Janssen I & Ross R. Linking age-related changes in skeletal muscle mass and composition with metabolism and disease. J Nutr Health Aging, Nov-Dec 2005, 9(6), 408-19.
  5. Newman AB et al. Strength and muscle quality in a well-functioning cohort of older adults: the Health, Aging and Body Composition Study. J Am Geriatr Soc, Mar 2003, 51(3), 323-30.
  6. Onambélé-Pearson GL, Breen L &Stewart CE. Influence of exercise intensity in older persons with unchanged habitual nutritional intake: skeletal muscle and endocrine adaptations. Age (Dordr), Jun 2010, 32(2), 139-53. Epub 2010 Apr 21.
  7. Tudor, T & Brown R. The Private World of Tasha Tudor. Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1992.
  8. Visser M. Towards a definition of sarcopenia–results from epidemiologic studies. J Nutr Health Aging, Oct 2009, 13(8), 713-6.
  9. Zak M, Swine C & Grodzicki T. Combined effects of functionally-oriented exercise regimens and nutritional supplementation on both the institutionalised and free-living frail elderly (double-blind, randomised clinical trial). BMC Public Health, Jan 2009, 28, 9, 39.