The story: 104-year-old Ray Chavez, the oldest surviving veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack of World War II, is going to Hawaii for the 75th anniversary of the strike. He made the decision to go three years ago, and has been working with a trainer to help him physically prepare for the trip.
At 104 years old, Ray put on 20 pounds of muscle mass.
I love this story. The decision to make an effort, and then stick with it for years and attain such spectacular results is phenomenal. But the fact that he could actually make these gains isn’t!
What we think about the aging process – that our bodies will become unable to lift heavy things, or walk certain distances as our age advances – is not necessarily true. As with any age group, if you don’t continue to use the strength, flexibility, or cardiovascular endurance you have, you’ll lose these abilities to a degree. But…
No matter how old you get, you can still gain at least some of the qualities back!
The body’s ability to build strength or endurance or flexibility doesn’t change as we age, though the process can differ slightly. Everyone has their own starting point, dependent on age and other characteristics (like being a couch potato or an avid outdoorsman). With advancing age, starting strength or endurance often decrease, so it’s important to recognize where you are, rather than where you think you should be or want to be. A good guideline: whatever exercise or activity you choose should be moderately challenging, but achievable. And your starting point is just that – a starting point. Though the aging process usually means that it takes a bit longer for our bodies to respond to the exercise, they still will respond. In fact, if you stick with the “challenging but achievable” guideline, you’ll be able to continue to progress with weights or other resistance training for strength, or to stick with the treadmill or bike for a greater duration. All of it will eventually become easier. Once it does, you can find a new challenge. Heavier weight. Longer bike ride. Higher steps.
The long and short: Our bodies are designed to move, and that design doesn’t change with age. The body may not progress as fast as we’d like it to, but it will make progress!