Type in anti-aging in a search engine and over 42 million search results pop up. Most of these surround creams, drugs and other lotions and magic potions to help you keep from getting old. But how many of these products really work? My guess is that if there were actually any products that helped you to stop aging, you’d see and hear about that product on the nightly news and in every health magazine in the world. It would be highly touted by everyone and the buzz would be overwhelming! But since I haven’t heard anything about a product like this, my guess is that no one has been able to come up with the magic formula to help us turn back time.
The way I see it, externally there are 3 major factors which determine how old someone looks. I’m not talking about what happens inside someone’s body; I’m just referring to the external signs of aging. As we get older, our hair thins out and turns gray. Our skin becomes less elastic, starts thinning and gets wrinkles. In addition to wrinkles, the skin also can become discolored and develop age spots. The last external sign of getting older is a change in body composition as we gain fat, lose muscle and become less flexible.
There is currently billions of dollars being spent on research and development to find a cure for hair loss. There are a lot of very smart people trying to find a way for us to keep our thick manes on our heads. The one who does find a way of keeping our hair follicles from falling out and turning gray will literally become a billionaire overnight.
There is even more money being spent on finding a way to erase wrinkles and turn back the time on our skin. The one who finds a cure to make skin look like it did in our younger days will even make more money that the person who finds the hair follicle cure.
So what about the third area? What do we do about body composition? Well, we all know that we need to exercise and eat healthy to keep our body fat levels in check. So what about preventing muscle loss?
Everyone loses muscle as we get older. This can be from a variety of factors but muscle loss as a result of aging is called sarcopenia and the process starts in the 6th decade. According to a study done by Abate, et al. published in 2007, by the 8th decade of life muscle mass attains a value that is 40% less than that in the 2nd decade of life(1). There are many factors that cause sarcopenia but primarily it is driven by motor neuron death along with cell death(2). During the aging process the number of muscle fibers as well as the fiber size decrease. The goal is to reverse this process.
So how do we do that?
Numerous studies have shown that weight training is the only way to stop or even reverse the aging process in muscles. The problem becomes that as we age, our joints give us a hard time also and doing a full range repetition not only becomes difficult but can be dangerous. How often do you see people in their 60’s or older pushing heavy weights on a bench press? Or a leg press? Or lifting any type of serious weight in the gym for that matter?
Static contraction training has been used by many of our trainees over 50 years old for several years now. Due to the range of motion being limited to only the muscles’ strongest range, SCT provides a safe alternate to traditional weight training. With the progressive increase of weights, it also provides a very structured and efficient program to reverse muscle loss and increase strength. This has shown an extraordinary potential for rehabilitation of the loss of muscle strength and function, which can in turn arrest this one aspect of aging and improve the quality of life for the elderly.
SCT is also not just for the elderly as it works for all age groups, from the elderly to the young teenager. It’s crucial to build muscle mass from as early as possible because the more muscle mass we have to begin with prior to sarcopenia setting in, the better off we will be.
Aging is inevitable. Getting old is not. You can age gracefully without getting old if you start training smart. SCT should be a part of your routine to build and maintain muscular strength. A healthy diet, cardio exercise and daily stretching will keep your heart strong, your body fat levels down and your joints limber. That should cover one of the physical aspects of aging. As far as the hair and skin are concerned…….well, let’s keep our fingers crossed that someone becomes an overnight billionaire soon!
- Abate M, Di IA, Di RD, Paganelli R, Saggini R, Abate G. Frailty in the elderly: the physical dimension. Eura Medicophys 2007;43:407-15.
- Doherty TJ. Invited review: Aging and sarcopenia. J Appl Physiol 2003;95:1717-27.