Pumping Irony

Craig Cox, EL’s managing editor and resident geezer, explores the joys and challenges of aging well.

Experience Life Magazine

Muscle Repair Shop

It’s primary election day today, so I’m skipping the gym to go exercise my political franchise. I did cycle into the office this morning, as usual, enjoying the gorgeous  autumnal weather. And I spent a fun-filled 40 minutes or so on Saturday morning doing my Dr. Oz pushups, some planks (so there, JS!), crunches, cobras and other punishing stretchy kinds of things.

The point being: I don’t feel at all guilty about missing a couple of gym workouts. I’ll be back at it downstairs tomorrow night. But, all this has me wondering something about my aging body (57 years, one week and two days): Are old muscles, tendons, ligaments and such fundamentally different from young ones?

So, I consulted the pages of Technology Review (where else?), where I discovered that, just as I had suspected, exercise damages muscle cells — old and young — which are eventually replaced by new cells. Here’s how the TR folks put it:

“When we exert ourselves, like going to the gym or running after the bus, we always damage muscles which are being replaced over time [by] muscle stem cells,” says Irina Conboy, assistant professor of bioengineering and an investigator at the Berkeley Stem Cell Center. “But when we get older, cell death is faster than cell replacement.”

So there’s the rub: My cells are dying off faster than I can replace them, so it takes longer to repair my aching muscles.  I’m not interested in “miracle” muscle growth supplements, but I’d like to know that what I’m doing in my ongoing fitness regimen might have some mitigating effect.

 Big Al Fortney, over at Criticalbench.com, gives me some hope. He says getting sufficient protein can help to repair muscle damage — and I’m not one to disagree with a guy whose biceps are as large as my thighs, you know? (How does this guy even fit through doors?)

Thus armed (sorry), I’m off to devour some protein. Tomorrow, back to the sweat-a-thon.