Gary Tetz

Once again, science has undermined the foundation on which another of my excuses is built.  

“Seniors who have never exercised regularly have the same ability to build muscle mass as highly trained athletes in the same age group,” reports McKnight’s, citing a University of Birmingham study. 

For the past decade or two, ever since realizing I was becoming inexorably ancient, I’ve chosen to believe that strength training is mostly an exercise in denial and futility. I still do it, but half-heartedly and irregularly, because what’s the point if I’m no longer getting discernibly stronger? For the outcome obsessed, mere maintenance is insufficiently motivating. 

Managing my decline — that’s the job description I’ve even given to a personal trainer. Once I came to believe measurable growth was no longer possible at my age, my heart wasn’t in it anymore and my actions atrophied. 

But now it appears I’ve been oh-so-wrong. 

“[I]t doesn’t matter if you haven’t been a regular exerciser throughout your life, you can still derive benefit from exercise whenever you start,” said the study’s lead researcher, in the process demolishing my most fondly held justifications for avoiding the weight room. 

Of all the unhelpful notions human kind clings to, thinking the time for growth and self-improvement has passed us by might be one of the most misguided and destructive. Because it’s never too late to get active, to eat better, to journal or meditate, to learn the accordion or salsa dancing. Shockingly, it’s not even too late to prepare for PDPM. 

I’m reminded of a favorite nursing home resident who was resistant to participating in a facility art program. But after opening her mind and giving it a try, Green Eggs and Ham style, she embraced it wholeheartedly, revealing hidden talents and giving her days new meaning. “You can always start again,” she told me. “It’s never too late.”

“Old age is at my back, and accuses me of having used up my years in fruitless pursuits,” said the Stoic philosopher Seneca, speaking between deadlifts at the 24-Hour Fitness in first century Rome. “Let us press on all the more, and let hard work repair the losses of a misspent life.”

That sounds urgent and important. See you at the gym.  

Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold and Silver Medal winner in the Association of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He’s been amusing, inspiring, informing and sometimes befuddling long-term care readers worldwide since the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.