Good Read: Aging Backwards, by Miranda Esmonde-White
“A sedentary lifestyle — too much time spent on couches or at desks and not enough movement — is the most common trigger for muscular atrophy.
When we move our muscles as little as possible, with a sedentary lifestyle, we turn down our furnaces and literally cause our muscles to atrophy.
When the cells atrophy, we feel even more tired because we have fewer mitochondria generating ATP.
A vicious circle begins: less energy leading to less movement, which leads to less energy, which leads to less movement.
Atrophy from a sedentary lifestyle leads to weight gain, loss of energy, and chronic aches and pains. But atrophy can be easily prevented, stopped, and even reversed with daily gentle full-body exercise.”
Miranda Esmonde-White presents a powerful case for how we can stay young.
This is a challenge to many people who feel that aging is inevitable, or the superstitions pushed on us by culture.
She starts the book by dispelling 6 of the most prevalent myths about aging:
1 Myth: Our brains grow only until we are in our twenties — and then they start to die.
Truth: Neuroscientists have proved that, as long as we stay mentally active, our brains can actually keep growing and adding brain cells well into our twilight years, through the miracle of “brain plasticity.” (And the most powerful booster of brain plasticity? Exercise.)
2 Myth: Our metabolism slows down when we hit 40.
Truth: If we do absolutely no exercise, yes, our metabolism will start to take a hit at 40. But study after study over the last 25 years has proved that people who consistently exercise three times a week can completely avoid age-related metabolic slowdown and actually retain the same metabolism as people almost 40 years younger.
3 Myth: Our skin will inevitably age and wrinkle — our only defense is good genes.
Truth: We know now that many, many factors have an impact on the health of our skin. And, luckily, the amount of sun exposure can be countered with sunscreen. The amount of free radical activity can be countered with a fruit- and vegetable-rich diet packed with free radical–fighting antioxidants. The impact of gravity on the skin’s elasticity and firmness can be lessened with plenty of fresh water, enough deep sleep, and — you guessed it — exercise. (Recent research found just 3 months of exercising twice a week can restore the skin of 60-year-old sedentary folks to the same state as that of a 20 — to 40 — year-old!)
4 Myth: Our muscles inevitably fade away with each passing decade.
Truth: If we don’t use it, we will lose it. But if we do use it — meaning, if we engage our muscles — we don’t need to lose a single ounce of muscle. One University of Pittsburgh study looked at a cross section of 40 recreational athletes aged 40 to 81 who exercised four or five times a week. They underwent MRI scans, body composition testing, and quadriceps strength testing; the researchers measured their muscle mass and the amount of fat under their skin and between their muscles. The researchers found that, with exercise, the athletes could retain exactly the same levels of lean muscle mass from their forties into their eighties — in fact, some of the older exercisers had even more lean muscle tissue than the younger athletes.
5 Myth: Our joints are destined to fail.
Truth: Our joints fail not from age but from mismanagement. If we learn how to protect our body from intense impact (by learning to walk gently), pay attention to range of motion in our training, and learn the proper ways to support our joints with flexible muscles, our original joints — the ones we are born with! — should remain healthy until our very last days.
6 Myth: Everyone gets cancer/diabetes/heart disease eventually.
Truth: Up to 34% of cancer risk is directly attributable to lifestyle choices. Every kilogram of weight loss lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes by 16 percent — so losing just 10 pounds could reduce your diabetes risk by over 60%.
A study in the New England Journal of Medicine estimated that 82% of heart disease and heart attacks in women can be attributed to factors such as smoking, not exercising, being overweight, or eating a high-glycemic-index diet.
Paul Ebeling, Editor