Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is already working and exercising again, after fracturing three ribs in a fall last week.
As her longtime trainer Bryant Johnson commented on her injury and her continuing recovery in an article in Healthline, “It’s not the first time she’s broken her ribs. She’s tough as nails.”
The 85-year-old associate justice has proven her resilience as she’s overcome more than just broken ribs.
Ginsburg has fought and beat cancer twice over the years.
She underwent surgery in 2014 to have a stent inserted to open an obstructed artery in her heart.
She also cracked two other ribs in 2012.
Though her trainer noted they will be taking it easy at first, Justice Ginsburg is undoubtedly doing many things right to be able to continue to bounce back from injury well into her 80s — and to maintain her position as the oldest currently serving member of the Supreme Court.
So what exactly are they doing in that gym?
Dubbed “The Notorious RBG,” Justice Ginsburg shared her workout routine not long ago, on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” back in March.
Her trainer explained that the justice begins with a warm-up on the elliptical before transitioning into some light stretching.
After that, she jumps into a plethora of resistance, rotational, and weight-bearing exercises.
The twice-a-week sessions — designed to work the entire body — consist of exercises such as lat pull downs, chest presses, squats, push-ups, leg curls, and planks.
She then concludes with a cool down and additional stretching.
As people get older, muscle mass and bone density tend to decline, while body fat tends to go up. People begin to lose around 3 to 5 percent of their muscle mass every 10 years after age 30, as Harvard Medical School has noted.
Known as sarcopenia, age-associated muscle loss can negatively impact mobility, strength, and balance — all of which can lead to an increase in the probability of injury.
This is where the concept of “use it or lose it” comes into play. As an article by Dr. Rick Nauert, associate professor for the doctoral program at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals, in PsychCentral.com made clear, “New research discovers that even among young people, two weeks of not using your legs can cause a drop in muscular strength of more than 30 percent.”
Citing work from researchers at the University of Copenhagen, Nauert explained that whether it’s the product of a long vacation or of injury, physical inactivity “can cause a rapid decline in muscular strength.”
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Fortunately, there are steps every one of us can take to preserve and even increase our muscle mass as we age.
“It takes work, dedication, and a plan, but it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it.”
“The only way, really, to improve on the bone density and muscle strength is doing weight-bearing exercises — and so that’s what I actually have her doing,” said Johnson, Ginsburg’s trainer — who also doubles as a wellness expert for The Vitamin Shoppe.
Dr. Thomas W. Storer, director of the exercise physiology and physical function lab at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said that people can overcome the impact that aging and inactivity has on muscle mass.
“Older men can indeed increase muscle mass lost as a consequence of aging,” Storer told Harvard Medical School. “It takes work, dedication, and a plan, but it is never too late to rebuild muscle and maintain it.”
An efficient way to increase mobility and overall muscle power is by using the legs.
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“Doing quicker movements against resistance, like one’s own body weight, can be an effective means of developing power,” said Storer, who also emphasizes the power of nutrition and specifically protein in respect to muscle preservation.
Though muscle mass decline may be a natural byproduct of aging and inactivity, there is certainly much each of us can do to counteract it.
Justice Ginsburg — along with continued research and advancement in the areas of physical health and strength — is demonstrating that exercises such as strength training can keep each of us healthy and resilient, allowing us to bounce back from injury even into the golden years.