Walking up the hill I noticed a car trying to parallel park in a tight spot between two other cars. A woman was on the sidewalk frantically giving a variety of hand signals to help the driver. Each attempt seemed worse then the last. As I got closer I noticed there were three or four empty parking spots on either side of the two cars; both seemed easier to park in. Hoping to help the situation I pointed to the vacant spaces and offered, “Those spots are also long term parking.” The woman smiled and replied, “Tomorrow is my daughter’s drivers test and she’s still working on how to parallel park.”
I smiled thinking of how I misunderstood the situation at hand. I found myself in a similar situation down by Pemaquid Point a few years back. My friend and I loved to go rock climbing on the dramatic cliffs just north of the lighthouse early in the mornings. We had set up an anchor to top rope a slightly overhung route. I was part way up the cliff and finding the project much harder to climb than I had thought. I was clinging to a tiny hand hold when a man appeared above us in a bathrobe and holding a cup of coffee. He lived in a house close by and, by the way we were moaning and groaning in our efforts, thought someone had fallen off the cliff. Taking in the situation he offered, “If you guys walk back about a hundred yards that way, it would be much easier to get up.” My friend and I laughed and replied, “We’re hoping that by practicing now, some day it won’t feel as hard!”
Our muscles work the same way. When we physically push them to perform under high loads we create microscopic tears in their fibers. As a response the injured cells release myokines which activate the immune system to repair the muscles, creating thicker fibers that are even better at handling future loads, becoming stronger through the process. Everyday activities don’t stimulate new muscle growth and without exposure to resistance and stress we loose one percent of our muscle mass and three percent of our strength every year. You don’t slow down when you get old, but you get old when you slow down.
Recent studies have shown that each time we contract a muscle myokines are released into the blood stream. These work to regulate metabolism, increase glucose uptake, control inflammation, and possibly prevent most metabolic diseases. Since muscle makes up 45 percent of the body, making the hard choice to do what feels difficult in the moment could be the key to our own longevity.
If you’re interested in learning more check out this great podcast: The Broken Brain Podcast – Muscle: The Organ of Longevity with Dr. Gabrielle Lyon, #12