Use it or Loose it! Applies to Muscles and the Brain!

Growing older is not for the faint of heart!

I have run across this quote many times. It has recently got me to think about what it is all about and if it can affect our happiness. Some of the things we deal with as we age is the loss of strength and muscle tone, decreasing resilience, memory changes, cognitive changes and so on. Right? Well I do not think it is necessary to fall into the trap of accepting any of those things as inevitable and normal. I think we can do something about each. As we age, we still want the same thing as always – to be happy anyway!

I read a great article in the Globe and Mail newspaper that dispels the myth that we naturally loose muscle after the age of 40. Take a look here for yourself if you like. Essentially it says that the loss of muscle after the age of 40 is really due to life style changes. We stop doing the things we used to do and therefore stop using those muscles. That leads to muscle loss. We sit more, we walk or run less. We use modern aids instead of just lifting and moving things like we used to. We might even get the kids to do it!

When I sit and think about it, I feel about 25 or so inside. It is only when I get up and look at a mirror that I see that I am actually 64. The mind stays young, why not the body? That can lead to depression or at least sadness. So, as most of you readers know by now, I decide what to do about it to be happy anyway! I do strength training to increase my muscle tone and mass. Yes it does reverse the loss of tone and lean muscle mass. I do not continue to jiggle when I stop moving! I feel great and therefore feel happier. Do something if you are concerned about loosing fitness levels as you age.

There are lots of things you can do to keep your mind from “shrinking” as well. I have read studies that show that we do so many things each day that our brain sets up neural roads that wear deeply so that we can do lots of repetitive things without thinking about them (habits). The problem is that the areas that are not used start to deteriorate. There are many studies that show that the brain is very plastic and can adapt other pathways if required to, in order to get things done using other parts of the brain. The key is to keep as much available as we can. What sorts of brain workouts can we do?

Whatever you decide, change things up as much and as often as you can. Sure, take up Bridge or chess, do crosswords and so on. BUT, change it up. Put your pants on starting with the other leg for the next month (just try it). Brush your teeth using the other hand. Use a different route to work. Read a different genre of book for a while.

Lifetime learning is more than just taking courses. Especially in these days of electronic media. Keep up with the new media. That alone is a form of life-long learning. 🙂 When you come across something new, look at it with wonder and investigate – learn. Just like when we were kids ourselves.

I am rambling on here. I will break this off and do a specific blog about brain use. Until then, remember, you can be happy anyway – just decide and act.

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