Written by: Jill Roth, Certified Essentrics® Instructor, from BodyAwarenessCoach.com
The local native tribes promised explorer Ponce de Leon a “fountain of youth” after he visited what is now Florida in the early 16th century. Presently, we still search for this magic elixir but perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction. Florida is nice, especially in the winter, but why not go a little deeper, to the inside of each of us where the key to anti-aging is locked away within something we already possess—our muscle cells!
Our muscle cells are what sustain our bodies as we go through our lives. They provide strength, flexibility, energy, and the capacity to maintain a healthy weight so that we may continually function in a safe and effective manner. When we are young, our muscle cells are extremely healthy, toned, and well lubricated. As we age, however, we tend to neglect certain muscles that were once used for running, jumping, swinging our arms and legs, and moving our spines in all directions. We tend, as we age, to sit more and use our bodies in repetitive motion, leaving other muscles stagnant for long periods of time. Or, we encounter injuries that have frightened us into immobility.
According to “Aging Backwards” a book by Miranda Esmonde-White, we lose 8% of our muscle cells every decade, which means that by age 65, we have lost 25% of our muscle capacity! This loss of capacity can send us into a downward spiral effect: compression on joints translating into joint pain, loss of energy, stiff muscles, and, eventually, tears in muscles, tendons, and ligaments which creates scar tissue.
In order to understand how to age backwards, we must first understand what happens to the cells when they go unused. Muscle cells need nutrients to sustain themselves, nutrients from our blood through circulation. If these nutrients are not delivered to the muscle cells on a regular basis, they begin to glue together and shrink down kind of like raisins. This process is known as muscle cell atrophy, and in some cases, unfortunately, the muscle cells will die off. Muscle cell atrophy can cause imbalances in muscle groups, as well as shrink the joints down closer together, not allowing the proper synovial fluid to lubricate the joint, eventually leading to knee pain, shoulder pain, or hip pain, for example.
When muscle cells shrink, the connective tissue, a kind of Saran Wrap around the muscles called fascia, shrinks down and becomes glued to the muscles, causing stiffness. This is what causes everyday activities such as getting out of a car or going up and down stairs more difficult. When the fascia restricts movement, it takes a lot more energy to move through those motions. Imagine walking through the ocean against the current.
Another reason energy production is lost is because muscle cells also house the very essential mitochondria, which aid in energy production and weight management. If we do not optimize the amount of working muscle cells in our body, we will not optimize our potential fat burning effects and energy production.
The answer to reversing your age? Movement of EVERY muscle, joint, and bone DAILY using all 650 muscles! Ever heard of the phase: “Don’t use it, you’ll lose it?” This, we have discovered, holds a lot of weight. The key is safe rotation and movement in all joints, dynamic stretching and strengthening of the muscles, and plenty of healing circulation to all parts of the body. It is important to find a fitness program designed to focus on the entire body, and not just segmented parts. Also, take breaks during the day when sitting or when repetitive motion is required. One simple and effective exercise is to lift the arms above the head to gently raise the rib cage, and then take in a deep breath, slowly lower the arms out to the sides and feel the blood flow! The effects are amazing!