I have decided to do an in depth discussion on my feelings about aging. There are many many parts to this discussion. I hope to eventually cover exercise, skin, hormones, sex -all of it. There is so much that no one talks about and is not written anywhere. Especially for women...and there is soooo little research that has been done on it. I mean, it is 2008 and there are still no answers, no real info, and doctors are dishonest just in case their common sense advise proves wrong and they get sued for malpractice. Doctors would rather err on the accepted side of a controversy that use obvious experience and observation. I will be using myself as an example, and would value your input - so please comment away! I am learning here, too.....
Today I am mainly going to just talk about exercise...although I do ramble into other aspects.
But first a sort of "prelude", cuz that's where my thoughts have gone.....
Having lost my mother a year and a half ago really put aging and mortality into focus for me. I guess she's on my mind because her birthday is coming up - Feb 22nd. That combined with moving my 87 yr old father has brought this topic to center front again for me. I thought about it occasionally before then, but as long as mom was still around, I could still be a little girl. I could fight with my sisters and she would mend the fences, I could call her anytime and tell her my boring and absurd fears or problems and she would listen and tireslessly advise. She would come and visit and take care of me or my family at the drop of a hat. Sheesh - she even came with me as a "nanny" for my boys for 3 months when I went to work in Boston! (boy was that fun!) She was obviously immortal and thus....... so was I. When she was well, before she got sick, I asked her about aging. (Actually, I alsways asked elderly relatives about getting old - as a child I was very curious - but more on that later).
OK. the truth. Aging is inevitable. No where have I found a book that tells me what those white spots are, how come there are hairs on my eyelids., where did those little skin "tags" come from. ...etc. etc. Even the doctors I've gone to have very vague answers. I may feel like I'm 20 (in my mind, that is) but my body knows better. Things ache when I use them. I have a longer recovery time when i work hard. I need more sleep but seem to be getting less.,,,And my brain function is anything anything but sharp as a tack. At least it feels that way sometimes. (I don't know, maybe I was just as scattered when I was younger - LOL-others tell me I was) - but now I notice it. Aging is something I have thought about for a long time. I have read close to every book on the subject - Lee, Northrup, Somers, Posner, Wright, etc ad nauseum. But I am not quoting books here. I am commenting on my own personal observations about ME and my relatives and friends. But mostly ME. Parts of books are interesting, but there is so much controversy and so many theories between books that after reading I am once again left with the truth that there are simply no facts, and no answers. At this point I have to take the parts in books that seem to apply to me and try them out, experiment. I personally am convinced the key here is hormones. But that is a HUGE topic for me, HRT (hormone replacement therapy) and its controversy and all that. I'll cover that topic another day..... maybe tomorrow.
OK. back to exercise. After age 40 give or take a few years, muscle mass starts to turn to fat ( READ: chunky pitted cellulite) whether you like it or not. Exercise can help stave this off tremendously - but we're not talking about the regular exercise you did in your 30's that kept you strong and shapely, we're talking aerobics 5 days a week and a weight work out for over an hour 3-4 times a week. Work- we're talking about real work here! And here's the real kicker - if you undertake a really active work out, like I did, in my late 40's early 50's, when you stop - like I did - for just 8 weeks......all of that muscle mass turns to fat fat fat- jiggly gross fat and cellulite . ....and that old exercise routine just doesn't cut it anymore to get it back to muscle. and now you've stretched skin that has lost it's elasticity and doesn't bounce back taut, so you have sagging knees? yuck! ....I can lightly pull the top of my thigh and presto! the cellulite seems to disappear.... would that be a thigh lift? same thing on my arms, my face, my butt! (I can't believe how much my jaws have "fallen" in the last year....) I thought - I'll exercise more and harder. But it doesn't seem to work like it did before. ...and I had to be careful or I'd pull a muscle easier. ..and it was tiring...and it was boring and I just don't feel like doing it! I no longer can go on a that favorite fast diet and lose those extra 5 lbs that turned to 10 that turned to 15. My bodies simply doesn't metabolize and work the same as it did before. No one ever ever mentioned to me that I would need to INCREASE my exercise as I got older...and from my experience even this is no guaranty you will even begin to maintain your body muscle and tautness. I'm sure it's from the change in hormones that wreak havok with my mood, my energy, my skin, my mind!....my ability to maintain muscle. My childbearing days our over, and like a plant, I am going to seed!........and eventually that means I am going ...to....die.
Several years ago Jamie Lee Curtis, the actress, did a photo spread in Vanity Fair where she showed her body as it was. It was a very brave and vulnerable thing to do. Up to this point she had been an active exerciser and her body was always in super taut shape. But after she turned 50, her priorities changed....as have mine. She didn't want to spend hours exercising everyday when she could spend time with her family, her hobbies, her work. In my case it was spending time with my art. And so she stopped. She continued to do enough exercise to keep her heart and bones strong, but she gave up on carving out a perfect body. ....and her body became rounder, softer.
It has taken me a while to come to grips with all of these changes. The floppy crepey skin everywhere really appalls me. Oh well. Yes, I do accept the changes of aging. I've never had a perfect body, never stressed about having one. My body weight has always varied, and I have dieted off and on. But my skin was always pretty taut, the floppy fat not too bad. But things have changed. Not just the "it's harder to lose weight" thing. .... all of a sudden everything has "dropped"....and I am not doing anything different. Should I? I mean maybe I should - just for the experiment of it! I have searched and searched for pictures of elderly women who are in shape. I've found some Jack Lalane type men, but no women. Is it possible for any woman to keep good muscle mass after age 55? and if she is in good shape, does she still have crepey skin? and do the women who are taking hormones have better musclemass? I do know that my mother took high doses of estrogen (no progesterone, premarin only) until she was 79, whereupon she got breast cancer and they took her off the estrogen. Within 3 months my sexually active, tight skinned, robust and active happy mother turned into a dried up depressed no interest in sex and confused, very very old woman. Did you know that if you were to lie in bed for a month (or is it 2 weeks? anyway, it's not a long time!) you would lose 25% of your muscle mass? That's a lot of muscle!
Exercise makes me feel good. It keeps my bones strong, it gives me flexibilty, it gives me stamina. And it really elevates my mood. So I think it is important. It is the INTENSITY of that exercise that I am questioning here. Is it worth it? Am I using this as an excuse to be lazy? To relax? Are there any studies on it? How different can exercise change the appearance of the elderly body? What do you think? How are you dealing with aging? What bugs you the most? What are your results - pro or con?
Please do not think I am obsessed by this. I am not. My body right now is a bit overweight and out of shape. I haven't exercised in over a month. For my own personal well being and state of mind I need to get back to my routine. But I've just been thinking about it alot and I think it is a topic that is never covered totally honestly. It's not just about vanity. It is so much than that.
As I type this my DH just took a picture of me. My nose is drooping. MY NOSE! My cute naturally tiny little nose - now the tip is...droopey. Gross!