Monday, November 29, 2010

Can You Believe?

Olga Kotelko is 91 years old! She is an amazing athlete, she runs, does long jump, throws the discus and javalin. A long article about her in the NYTimes Magazine yesterday has me stunned at her accomplishments. She is not a life-long athelte. She spent the middle part of her life as a single mother raising two children, teaching school and struggling to make ends meet. She had enjoyed sports as a girl and turned to very serious sports training only after she retired.

No, I will not say, "if she can do it so can anyone". That's very clearly not true. Much of the article talks about physiological matters explaining why some older people are physically so much more able than others. Much has to do with working at physical fitness during the 50s and onward. But doctors really don't know how to explain the few people who are like Olga, super fit and with muscle fibers that work as efficiently as a very much younger person.

An article like this isn't being published to tell everyone "get out there and do it," but to say that, indeed, there are considerable physiologic differences but that constant physical endeavors help maintain fitness when most people have become couch potatoes. On a personal level I was relieved to learn that often [perhaps most of the time] our muscle fibers stop being efficient sometime between 45 and 65 and we lose fitness which makes us feel that exercise routines are tiresome and largely useless. I've been a long, long time practitioner of yoga but have found it very hard to maintain my routines in the 4 or so years since I broke my hip and had to avoid strain for a couple of months. I still feel, in my head and gut and muscles, that getting back into the routine would be an extremely good idea. I know elasticity can be regained.

This article talks about studies Olga Ketelko underwent in Finland. And just last week I read an article saying other fitness studies in Finland showed that some people -- usually people in their 30s or so, simply do not benefit for exercise routines while the majority do benefit. The point being that not everyone has the same muscular ability to get stronger or limberer or to increase their cardiovascular ability. But I also remember reading more than once that when it comes to medical studies, the Finns perform them as strictly and well as other people but frequently come up with results that are simply not replicable in any other study. Who knows why? However, I look at this picture of Olga Ketelko and I think "This is what 91 looks like!"

3 comments:

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

June -- I believe that exercise can take many forms and that just being active and getting up and around can contribute to ones agility. But I am not an expert. I exercise twice a week with a group of older folks. A man in the group is 93 --he seems to move and look like a 60 year old. He was a skilled laborer and part time farmer all his life so he had lots of exercise to keep him fit. Interesting to read about
fitness -- barbara

standing on my head said...

i have a sneaking suspicion that we are affected more by what we think about what we do, than by what we do.

June Calender said...

I'm always curious about the variability of how people age -- I think of the 100 year old twins I blogged about on my Calenderpages recently. I'm glad the scientific world has become open minded enough to truly look at what happens from the mitochondrial level to the mental -- although I think "standing" has a point that's been insufficiently studied so far.ournem