Marge Woodfin, Pilot staff writer

If any one of you out there is using age as an excuse for becoming sedentary, accepting a somewhat general belief that growing old equals muscle loss, your perception has just been blown away by an article in a recent issue of the AARP magazine.

The article cites information about masters athletes andndash; a title given for "older competitors, usually those over 35." But, if you are an octogenarian, as am I, don't stop reading.

If you are convinced that those masters athletes who can still run a marathon at age 70 or 80 are simply part of a super breed of homosapiens, you might change your mind after reading the article's statistics proving that such feats are not due to inherited genetics.

The article claims that it is a person's lifestyle and continuing energetic use of muscles that keeps them strong and healthy far into the years when the majority of us are becoming lumps on the couch, sitting on our derrieres ingesting trivia from the television or computer.

The AARP article reads, "Older competitors are defying the laws of science and aging. Heed their secrets and you can, too."

The challenge continues, "Okay, so you weren't a jock in high school. Doesn't matter. You can still become fit andndash; even athletic andndash; at 70 and beyond."

Mayo Clinic doctor Michael Joyner, M.D., is quoted, "The anecdotal evidence is strong that anyone can become competitive, if they want to."

The article notes that research done since 1970 indicates that one of my favorite platitudes, "Use it or lose it," is indeed correct.

It isn't age that limits physical activity, but lack of physical activity that causes loss of muscle strength and stamina.

According to the article, endurance capacity remains high in spite of age for masters athletes partly because exercise loosens arteries.

Hirofumi Tanaka, Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research laboratory at the University of Texas, has studied master athletes extensively.

He emphasizes that the evidence provided by the more recent research indicates that it is wrong to blame loss of physical strength on long-held beliefs that the most physical degeneration is due to aging.

The AARP article concludes with several claims:

"Many of the supposedly unavoidable and debilitating physiological effects of aging are illusory. Being sedentary is much more of a risk factor for extreme declines in muscle mass, strength and endurance than is simply being past middle age"

So I ask, what are you avoiding by hiding behind the excuse of age? Give it up! You've been exposed! Get up and move!

You might start by signing up for Relay for Life, which will not only help keep you moving, but will also provide warm fuzzy feelings of helping support the fight against cancer.

Try it, you'll like it.