Copyright © 2002 Henrietta W. Hay
Henrietta Pushes Iron
October 11, 2002
I can't imagine any sight less inspiring than an 88 year old women in
baggy pants and a T shirt carefully lifting 3 and 5 pound weights,
surrounded by buff young men and women tossing around 100 pounders.
Fortunately, the young people are much too polite -- or self-absorbed --
I am, believe it or not, working out again -- working out with weights,
if you can call 3 pounds a weight. I really feel pretty silly with my
white hair and my southward bound body, working away on my triceps and
biceps and lats and quads and all the other long forgotten parts of my
anatomy. After much prodding (nagging is more like it) from my
friends and recommendations from my doctor, I have agreed to back to
improving what is known in the health world as my "upper body"
strength. Just walking doesn't cut it, so they tell me.
Several years ago I worked out quite seriously for a while, but got
lazy and quit. Now that I have started in again, however, I find
myself looking forward to the sessions - well, sort of. I remembered
"working out" as a somewhat esoteric activity indulged in mostly by
jocks with bulging muscles and young things with lithe, hard bodies.
Not so. It's for everybody.
I see people of both sexes and all ages and degrees of physical fitness
working to the limit of their individual ability. Even the young ones
who are already in shape are exercising to stay that way and they are
quite tolerant of the rest of us, although I think I have detected a
slight snicker now and then. After all, we all have one thing in common
-- pain. I watch with awe as big men and tiny women lift weights that
I would merely sit down on.
There are as many reasons for being in the gym/athletic club/health
club/fitness center are as there are people. Many are rehabilitating
muscles that have been injured in some way. Some are re-building
strength after heart attacks or strokes. Athletes are in training for
their sports. Of course many are there to lose weight. Most of us are
there simply because we want to maintain or increase our physical
strength and overall health, and we feel better when we do it. And the
individual trainers that I have worked with are an inspiration.
One group that is fairly new to the gym scene consists of the aging.
That's a polite term for people like me. According to the 2000 census,
35 million Americans are 65 or over and more than a million are over
90. Researchers are finding that many of the changes which we assume
are an inevitable part of the aging process are really due to neglect
and abuse. So, well into our 80's a lot of us are getting out of the
rocking chairs and trying to make up for lost time.
Dr. Alex Leif of the Harvard Medical School says, "Exercise is the
closest thing to an anti-aging pill there is. Regular daily physical
activity has been a way of life for virtually every person who has
reached the age of 100 in a sound condition."
Dr. Evans of Tufts University adds "...Barring disease, a weight
lifting regimen increases muscle function in oldsters by 200 to 300
percent. We can make a 95 year old as strong as a 50 year old person."
Well now wait just a minute. I think that is going a little far, but If I could make it back to 70 I might really have a chance to see a
So I guess I'll try to work up from those huge 3# weights to 4
pounders. Which is not to say I like it, but if it will give me the
energy of a 70 year old, who's to complain!