I remember a short story in high school about a man who happened upon a medical encyclopedia. Reading it, he decided that he was suffering from every malady except housemaid’s knee.
As the ‘one regular guy’ producing this blog, I read a lot on various aspects of living a healthy life. I confess to a temptation to occasionally wander into hypochondria myself.
I recently ran across the term ‘sarcopenia.’ Ever heard of that? It was a new one to me.
Here’s what the Mayo Clinic blog had to say, “It is a simple fact. As we age we lose muscle and strength. There’s even a medical term for this — sarcopenia. It’s derived from the Greek words “sarcos” (flesh) and “penia” (lack of).
“Estimates of how much muscle is lost with age vary from 8 percent to about 50 percent of our muscles. Men seem to lose muscle faster than women. Strength is lost more rapidly than muscle.”
WebMD says, “Physically inactive people can lose as much as 3% to 5% of their muscle mass each decade after age 30. Even if you are active, you’ll still have some muscle loss.
“There’s no test or specific level of muscle mass that will diagnose sarcopenia. Any loss of muscle matters because it lessens strength and mobility. (My emphasis)
“Sarcopenia typically happens faster around age 75. But it may also speed up as early as 65 or as late as 80. It’s a factor in frailty and the likelihood of falls and fractures in older adults.”
Now, I know I don’t have housemaid’s knee, but I confess the idea of sarcopenia troubled me as a 76 year old guy. I live a reasonably healthy life, biking daily and otherwise not hiding from exercise. On the other hand, I don’t enjoy the health club and it has been a while since I pumped any iron.
To test my own strength, I did some push ups and chin ups. To my chagrin, I was able to pump out barely over four push ups. On the chin up side, it was worse, I managed to accomplish 3/4 of one. In plain English, I was not able to do a single chin up.
I decided that if I wasn’t suffering from it, I was definitely a candidate for sarcopenia.
So I have been doing either push ups or chin ups every day. I had to take a break for six weeks starting April 15 when I suffered a bad biking accident flying over the handlebars and hitting the concrete on my hands and knees. The good news is that the X-rays showed no fractures. The bad news is that my left hand was so traumatized it wouldn’t support my weight for six weeks.
I am happy to report that after six months (including the interruption), I am now able to do 40 push ups and 10 chin ups.
My daily routine is simple, I do as many as I can with the best form I am able to muster about four times over the course of a day. So, four sets. Each time I keep going until the muscles fail. For readers without some expertise in this department, a chin up is done with the hands facing the person, a pull up is done with hands facing away. I do what is called the neutral grip, palms facing each other.
Also, I did not change my diet in any way. No bulking up on protein or any other supplements. Just my regular food in the usual amounts.
Interesting side note, I now have calluses on both hands from the chinning bar which I use for both chin ups and push ups. (The bar converts). Update: I now use my padded biking gloves when I do them. Calluses receding!
I hope this little anecdote will give heart to any seniors out there who may have let things go in the exercise department. I am an old man but was able to make sizable gains in a relatively short time. You can do it, too. One day at a time.