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Aging Well

Aging WellTufts' Miriam Nelson tells Oprah that a little muscle can go a long way in the fight against aging. Chicago.

Boston [05.04.01] On Wednesday, Oprah Winfrey and thousands of her viewers turned to Tufts' Miriam Nelson for the keys to aging well. The secret, the Tufts expert said, may be as simple as a few basic exercises.

Muscles, Nelson said, play a critical role in the aging process. "We don't value our muscle," she told Oprah's national audience. "People don't understand that as we grow older, starting at our 30s, most of us lose about one-third of a pound of muscle every year."

That muscle loss can impact everything from body shape to mental health. "What happens when we have that kind of shift in our body composition is that it puts us at a greater risk for osteoporosis, it drops our metabolism and so weight gain is much easier," said Nelson, a nationally renowned expert on the effects of strength training on aging.

Nelson and her colleagues at Tufts have studied the impact of strength training on the aging process. "What we've found is that when you're physically strong, you're emotionally strong and ready to take on life's challenges," she told Oprah.

Muscle, Nelson said, can also help reduce the negative effects of stress and physical strain.

The Tufts expert told Oprah's audience that stress can do more damage to aging women than osteoporosis. "Stress is so much more debilitating than you imagine," she told Oprah.

According to Nelson, women have a lot of control in the aging process.

"There are so many factors we can control," she said. "You can control the loss of muscle and gain in body fat. You can control your metabolism. You can control your fitness and you can control how you feel about yourself."

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