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by Diane Spicer
Doesn't that describe all of us, really?
Each day passes and leaves us one day older.
So define "aging" as any age you'd like: 30, 45, 60...
If you're here, let's dive into some tips and tricks to make your hiker's body keep going no matter your age in years.
As we age, gracefully or not, we all face many changes in our trail hardened bodies.
We deal with them, or ignore them, according to our personality.
Some are physical challenges to be overcome or managed:
Others have to do with our changing digestion, endurance and motivation:
And there are inevitable changes correlated with aging, but which can be slowed down by simply doing the thing we love (you did say hiking, right?)
Did you guess that it would be related to your muscles?
Let's take a closer look.
I'm talking about loss of skeletal muscle mass over time, the types of muscle fibers that give you stamina and power on the trail.
Have you ever seen the cells which are responsible for getting you out and back again?
Notice how there's a cozy relationship between the skeletal muscle cells (also called "fibers") and the fat cells.
That has to do with their distinct jobs.
Skeletal muscle cells will shorten or lengthen, depending upon what you are doing on the hiking trail:
Fat cells store hiking energy, and will release that energy when given the correct chemical signals.
Who needs the energy?
You guessed it, the neighboring muscle cells...
which translates into the energy you rely upon when you're hiking.
This is all well and good in a young, active hiker's body.
But if that hiker stops hiking and passes the 30 year mark give or take), the skeletal muscle cells begin to be replaced by fat cells (and some non functional, ropey connective tissue).
Muscle tone decreases, so they begin to look and feel flabby.
They notice a lack of endurance if they have to walk very far.
Reflexes may slow down.
And the numbers on the bathroom scale are creeping upward, as the heavy fat is replacing the leaner muscle.
The news from the research world is good for aging hikers, as well as anyone else living in a human body.
Anyone who moves that body, that is!
For example, exercise and cardiovascular health was explored in this article in the journal Circulation.
All of these benefits are yours for the "price" of a sturdy pair of shoes/boots and a public hiking trail.
To slow down the unwanted conversion of muscle into fat as an aging hiker, stay active!
In other words, every day give your body plenty of excuses to burn some of that stored energy (i.e. fat) and keep your skeletal muscle cells plentiful.
Even fifteen minutes of movement will help you stay limber and strong.
Aging for women is given a distinct "odor" in American society.
Which images and words come to mind when you think of "old" women?
Here's a book which puts a positive spin on aging for women.
Bottom line for hikers over the age of 30:
Endurance and strength training can reverse,
or at least slow down,
loss of muscle performance associated with aging.
And that is truly great news!
Use it as one more motivator to get out on that trail and have a great time.
More motivational quotes found here
There's a difference between feeling old and claiming the elite title of an elder.
Some suggestions for further reading here:
The online Over 40 Hiker community might be just what you're seeking.
It's a female, private group which allows us to discuss topics, exchange trail wisdom, post our triumphs and great photos, and more.
You can learn all about this community, and meet some of our members, here.