We have all heard the term, “use it or lose it,” and even more so as we age. We can lose three to five percent of our muscle mass each decade after we turn 30, and as we lose that mass, our muscle strength, shape, and function goes with it. Living in retirement communities like Sun Lakes, we are more fortunate than a lot of folks in our age group because of the abundance of activities available to us. But as we grow older, the frequency and intensity of our activity tends to wane. Returning to regular activity after a period of inactivity can be even more difficult, especially after surgery or an accident.
A few things we can all do to either help us stay fit—or get back into the habit of a daily routine—is what I’ve termed the Microwave Workout. Simply put, it’s using the time we spend warming something up in our microwave oven to our advantage. As an example, I like my coffee hotter than it comes out of Mr. Coffee in the morning, so I put it in the microwave for 20 seconds. During that short time, I do knee bends. Knee bends do not affect the knee joints, but strengthen the muscles surrounding them, helping alleviate pressure and strain on these joints.
You also can keep a 5- to 10-pound barbell nearby and use it while that timer is clicking away. Those chicken wings under your upper arms will disappear like magic.
Last, but by no means least, is our balance. Doctors are always telling us seniors we are but one fall away from a life-changing event. We’ve all heard the stories. Standing on one foot during the period of time, we are waiting for the microwave to do its thing. This helps us keep our balance mechanisms working. Balance is truly a “use it or lose it” activity. Keep one hand on the countertop and test yourself. Your brain will take over and let you know if it’s safe to let go.
I’m not a physician, but I do know that maintaining both an active physical and social life in our golden years is key. Keep moving and keep laughing.