The other day I went to the post office to get my mail and on my way toward the exit, I saw a beautiful older woman standing near the door.
I’m guessing she was in her late 70s, but she might have been older. She was wearing a cute jacket and a colorful hat. She was fiddling with her gloves and I remember how brightly her blue eyes shone as we exchanged a smile and a nod.
I thought maybe she was waiting for someone, but no — I realized she was standing there because she couldn’t push open the door.
So I went through the door, and she followed behind, and then I pushed the second door open too, suddenly aware of just how heavy those doors felt. We smiled and nodded again as we headed off toward our cars.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’re like me in that you rarely give a second thought to being able to push open the heavy doors at the post office, bank or even at the mall. We’re lucky.
I train several older people, and they’re up against it with a lot of heavy doors and, come to think of it, a lot of other things that are pretty heavy, too. Sometimes illnesses or life stresses occur to make us weaker, but even without that, our muscles naturally atrophy as we age in a process called sarcopenia. The less active we are, the faster this process accelerates.
So this is what we need to do to head this off for as long as we can: stay active. Don’t do it just to be skinny. Do it so you can keep going to the post office by yourself. Lift weights. Move. Take the stairs whenever you can. Get strong — and fight like hell to stay strong. (And by “you,” I mean, me too.)
In the picture above is an exercise you can do at home to help you push open those heavy doors. It’s a modified pushup, and I have almost all of my older clients do this.
How to do a modified pushup: Stand a couple feet away from a counter or bench, your arms outstretched and holding firmly. Tighten your abs and lower your chest toward the counter. Push away. Repeat. Make sure you breathe! If you have a shoulder injury, don’t do this — and if it hurts, don’t do it either. And, if it’s too easy, find a lower bench.
The only way to keep your muscles is to use them. So keep on using them!