Notice how you get just a bit weaker with every birthday? That is age-related loss of muscle mass, strength, power and function called Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia means “poverty of flesh”, YUK!
As we become less active with age, “use it or lose it” becomes a very real factor. Yes, you are playing pickleball, but do you claim a spot on the court and hardly move from there? Have you ever tried a few minutes of singles hitting? After 50, there is a progressive loss of 1%-2% of muscle per year. At 60 muscle strength decreases 3% each year. Sarcopenia has a greater effect on fast twitch muscle fibers. No wonder I cannot rally with Jennifer Lucore, Steve Wong or Chris Miller for more than two shots. More practice won’t make me younger, but I do have some pointers to make all of us better.
Antioxidant-containing foods like fruits and veggies are recommended, along with vitamin D supplementation. Cardiovascular and resistance exercises play a major role in preventing muscle loss. You don’t have to run a 10k, but sidestepping along the base line several times just to elevate your heart rate is a good start. Put a couple of water bottles in your pickleball bag along with your paddles and lift the bag with one hand, then the other, for resistance training. Wear the heavy bag to do your sidestepping and marching in place. While you are waiting for a court, take out your pickleball towel, place the ends in each of your hands and pull the towel hard, squeezing your back muscles. Take your usual pickleball routine and just make it bigger and harder to get stronger. Push yourself just a bit more on your exercise routine and you will see those benefits happen.
Ed. Note: Fitness guru Barbara Wintroub is the author of Fighting Gravity.