Working Out Can Work Out

HELP! I CAN’T REMEMBER MY PASSWORDS

By Neil Offen

Each year past the age of 40 we lose 3.5% of our muscle mass. If anyone has found where it is, please let me know.

In the meantime, without that extra muscle mass, we sometimes find it difficult to perform extreme physical activities, like bending down to tie our shoes. We can get winded when we go for a brisk walk to the bathroom at 3 a.m. We may find it hard to lift heavy objects, like our arms. Getting up from a chair can be daunting, particularly if we’ve been sitting there for the entire “Big Bang Theory” TV marathon. Opening a can of soup, a major test of physical prowess, can be next to impossible, particularly if it has one of those annoyingly inflexible metal tabs.

That loss of muscle mass as we grow older makes the need to exercise more important, even crucial. Vigorous physical activity not only tones the aging body, but as a bonus it also engages the brain, and thus can take your mind off the exasperation of actually having to exercise.

Instead of worrying about how sore your lower back has become, or how stiff your knees feel, exercise can help you focus instead on that new troublesome throbbing in your chest when you try to hold the plank position.

Exercise can stimulate the endorphins, those wild and crazy little guys who have been doing nothing for the last 20 years except occasionally playing pinochle in the nervous system. It can stimulate new neurons to fire in the brain — which might account for that headache we’ve had since 2013 and that odd smoky smell every time we try to concentrate and figure out an 18% tip at a takeout-only restaurant.

In addition, exercise can help us lose the weight we have spent years carefully accumulating, tone those abs and maybe figure out what a Peloton is. Exercise also can help us with sleep issues, as long as we don’t try napping on the elliptical, and balance issues, as long as we don’t try to do pushups while on the treadmill.

With regular exercise, just a few minutes a day can improve aerobic fitness and muscle tone to the point where we are not embarrassed to go to the beach next summer or the gym this winter or the botanical gardens in the spring, unless the allergies start acting up again and we’ve run out of tissues.

In fact, and this is the most important point of all, exercise can keep our bodies the finely tuned machines they never were.

So, forget those battered knees and that plantar fasciitis and get out there now and lift a Subaru! It doesn’t matter if you get exhausted picking up the mail — go run a marathon! Take up kickboxing! Do squats with a kettle ball while swimming during a Zumba class! Beat up your neighbor! It’ll get your target heart rate up, particularly when the police arrive.

And remember that for every minute of exercise we do during our lifetimes, there will be one less minute to complain about exercising, which is clearly a win-win.


Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column appears twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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4 Comments on "Working Out Can Work Out"

  1. 🙂

  2. Kerry-Ann da Costa | November 13, 2021 at 9:14 pm | Reply

    I like that you have a humorous way of sharing how very important exercise is. I tend to just hit people over the head with it, and wonder why it makes no difference!

  3. Beat up your neighbor! Fisticuffs for fitness! What a hoot. I remember reading Art Buchwald columns 50 years ago and feeling the same humor synapses firing; thank you Neil Offen

  4. Funny and I assume that 3.5%/year muscle loss is humor but maybe error, it’s that much/decade. And endorphins are just boring pain killers, why you don’t hurt while running, (wait till the next day 😉 runner’s high is from another natural product: cannabinoids (your brain has receptors ready for those. Or smoke weed while running.)
    “Muscle quality” declines with age but that 3.5%/decade loss can be stopped. A physical therapist said no reason to lose strength, you can even gain it with age.
    That’s why all Olympic medals are won by senior citizens, more years building up muscles (plus all that experience 🙂

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