What happens to our fitness levels as we age?

 

The older athlete is in a prime position to command the return of youth and this time round, have the wisdom to make the most of it!

 

There’s no doubt about it. There can’t be many people who took up fitness later in life who would argue with the above statement. Many of us look back on our sluggish 20’s with a certain smug disdain. We may have had ‘youthful energy’ but since we also had the natural glow that comes with youth, many of us didn’t bother to channel our energy into physical fitness. But instead frittered it away on all-nighters and processed food. Oh, the 90’s!

Since turning my back on alcohol and party drugs, I’ve had both the incentive and discipline to explore and develop my personal fitness and following a lot of research into ‘the older athlete’ it turns out that now, as a forty-something I’m actually just hitting my prime!

A study carried out by Larsson et al on 114 male subjects of varying activity levels has concluded that global muscular strength continues to develop up to the age of 30. It then stays constant until the age of 50 after which there can be expected, a gradual decline in strength as age increases.

As with most things in life, natural decline can be held at bay or at least managed under focus and regular practice.

Balance and Posture: A big issue regarding physical fitness in the older adult is loss of balance and postural misalignment. Muscle, attached to bone pulls, contracts and shortens over time. Many postural issues can be successfully redressed with appropriate exercises.

There may be a number of components causing a compromise in balance however…

The Control Panel: The musculoskeletal and the central nervous system (CNS) are the two principle systems that govern our ability to balance and maintain posture. When they work together they form one ‘sensorimotor system’ (SMP). This SMP can be seen as a communication system that takes sensory information from the CNS, motor information from the peripheral nervous system (PNS) and sends these messages back to the brain for processing. Therefore, as we age, any compromise to our receptive senses (ie eyesight,  hearing, etc) or musculoskeletal system will directly affect our balance and coordination.

At OKOactive we place a great deal of focus on motor fitness and we’ll generally throw at least one curve ball into each PYRAFIT session just to keep you on your toes!

Motor skills include:

  • Reaction time
  • Speed
  • Balance
  • Spacial awareness
  • Agility and Coordination

In conclusion: As with anything, personal fitness is entirely proportional. We may be wise to enter fewer competitions as we age but there’s no reason at all not continue pushing our personal fitness threshold until we’re thrown onto the scrapheap of life!