Fight aging with movement

Long ago, I saw pictures of the cross-section of a 20-year-old woman’s thigh and a 70-year-old woman’s thigh; the amount of muscle mass missing in the older woman’s leg was amazing (and depressing).

I can’t find the story on the internet now, but trust me when I say 20-year-olds are a lot meatier. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn even at rest. This is why I could eat greasy hamburgers and fries for lunch and still fit into my size 9 miniskirt when I was a 24-year-old reporter, but at age 47, my muffin top makes an unsolicited appearance even when I splurge with ranch dressing on my chef’s salad.

It’s also the reason statements about using exercise to fight aging resonant with me.

Believe me, if I won the lottery, the second appointment I’d make after a financial planner would be one with a dermatologist who specialized in body peels and lifestyle lifts. But I don’t have that luxury, so I’ve got to rely on other less costly options to stay in shape.

Here’s how 49-year-old Courteney Cox ages gracefully, according to a recent interview in More (a magazine “for women of style and substance,” i.e. 40+): “Buck up. It ain’t easy. Go to the doctor. Drink water. Sleep as much as you can. Exercise. I get massages — anything for your circulation. Stretch. It’s all about keeping that body moving.”

Cameron Diaz, 41, says as much in “The Body Book: The Law of Hunger, the Science of Strength, and Other Ways To Love Your Amazing Body” (reviewed here yesterday): “The point is that life changes, and we need different types of strength at different times. But the one thing that must remain consistent is MOVEMENT.”

I hate some of the things that go with aging (wrinkles, cellulite, muffin top, age spots, I could go on but I sound like an ad for Miracle Something Or Other), but God put our souls into these bodies for a reason. We’re supposed to learn something — something spiritual — by swimming in this strange stew of our five wonderful senses, hormones, genetics, sugar lows, muscle pain and invasive doctor’s visits. Diaz describes this, in a small way, when she writes about her experience preparing for the Charlie’s Angels movie with a martial arts master:

“And that experience — learning to connect to my body, to love my body, to truly live in my body — has been the foundation of everything I have done since. Everything. My career. My relationship with my family. My relationship with myself. I showed up every day, and I did it, no matter what [pain I experienced]. Even if I didn’t want to do it, I still did it. And that built the discipline that I needed to do it then — and to know that I can do anything that I sent my mind to now.”

So as I ponder the dwindling muscle mass in my thighs (and elsewhere), I will remind myself how much better this aging body is to the alternative: I used to complain I could no longer wear 4-inch stilettos until I met a woman who had no feet.

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