Finding Inspiration In An MRI

Although it’s not easy to look at this without thinking about the Dirtbag Gourmet guide to cannibalism, these cross-section images

Although it’s not easy to look at this without thinking about the Dirtbag Gourmet guide to cannibalism, these cross-section images of the thighs of three men are highly motivating. People of a certain age will acknowledge that kicking hard for another interval, adding another loop to your trail run, or banging off another skin lap gets progressively harder as you get older. We know both intuitively and empirically that it pays off, of course, but here’s even more evidence.

The first image shows the legs of a 40-year-old triathlete. The center oval is the femur, which is surrounded by muscle (dark) and then fat and skin (white). The second image is a 74-year-old sedentary dude (obviously, cause it’s labeled as such), which, no offense to our volunteer lab specimen, is appalling. The adipose tissue constitutes a huge percentage of the leg and the muscle is shriveled and unhealthy looking. No doubt this is a more common condition than not at age 74, but still – I don’t want the inside of my pins looking like that, do you?

But there’s hope, and this is the coolest thing of all. Look at the quads of our 70-year-old triathlete. They’re not so different from the 40-year-old, and while you can’t draw conclusions about longevity or health or PRs in the Ironman based on this image, Door #3 looks a whole lot better than Door #2 any day.

Sweat Science, as usual, has an excellent take on this, along with plenty of well-informed comments. Worth a visit if you want to learn more.


Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 5 comments
  • Reply

    Nice post. I recently saw this study which documents that speed gains been really pronounced among older runners. So, perhaps you really could have a PR at 60+:

  • Carson

    And in related news, I will not be grilling a rib-eye tonight. Or for the foreseeable future.

  • cliffmama

    I think it’s time someone showed me an MRI of my belly. Just one look at the cross section of what used to be my abs should help motivate me to get in shape!
    Cool pics… thanks!

  • Caitlin

    Thanks for posting this. I actually wanted to find these images again to make a point and a Google search brought me here.

    Looking at these images, is it any wonder so many elderly injure themselves or die from simply falling down? My mother works in a very high-quality set of retirement communities, and seeing so many of the folks losing their independence and moving from caring for themselves in their own apartment to assisted living simply because they do not maintain fitness as they age is truly heartbreaking.

  • FitOldDog

    From a 71-year old triathlete, with friends who move like the guy in the middle, there is not doubt about the value of exercise as you age. Happy Trails.

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