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Why We Fall As We Age

March 17, 2024

FAST TWITCH MUSCLES START TO ATROPHY BY THE AGE OF 30

You can definitely engage in training exercises to slow the decline in fast twitch muscles, but there is a reason why most professional athletes retire in their 30s. My wife has been working out strenuously for more than forty years. She is 65 years old, and her VO2 max is in the upper 15% of women her age. Her physical strength allows her to be the active grandmother that everyone wishes they had for our ten grandchildren. To accomplish this, she has made it a habit to vary her exercise routines during the week. The other day, she went back to one of her old standbys, The Firm Aerobic Workout with Weights. She still uses her old Firm DVDs that were first created in 1986, but updated versions are readily available today: The Firm Workout & Exercise Videos´╗┐.

The Firm uses something called muscle confusion to make sure that all muscle groups are worked out over time. It all looks kind of hokey to me, but I must admit that I can’t even complete a session with her. Even my wife has begun to realize that she needs to modify her training regime if she wants to maintain balance and stability. One of the pieces of equipment they use in The Firm is a step-up box. You see a lot of step-up boxes being used in fitness clubs and CrossFit gyms. They are usually associated with men with big muscles using 100lb+ weights as they step onto a tall 24-inch box as they are preparing to be a Navy Seal or part of some Black Ops operation.  At age 74, after breaking my back last year, I’m still struggling to do a proper step-up on a 10-inch step-up box with no weights, but I’m making progress. Oh, I could probably catapult myself up onto a 20-inch box, but I wouldn’t be using the right form to engage my fast twitch muscles, which I need for stability at my age.

These fast twitch muscles keep us from falling and breaking something as we age. They allow us to keep our balance if we slip on something or step off a curb without noticing the drop. They allow us to quickly apply the brakes to avoid a catastrophic fall. After the age of 70, if you fall and break your hip, it could be fatal or, at minimum, be a long, painful recovery period that reduces your quality of life. I’m reluctant to admit that I have had way too many falls on my mountain bike that have resulted in broken bones or serious soft tissue damage. I didn’t realize until now that many of those falls could have been avoided if I had spent more time developing my fast twitch muscles. My lack of stability provided by fast twitch muscles was readily apparent over the weekend when my 5-year-old grandson faked me out and blew past me for a touchdown during a backyard football game. You can bet that I’ve now made it a priority to fix that, and I will. I highly recommend this 30-second video, Defying Aging: Harnessing Eccentric Strength for a Life of Balance #shorts #peterattia (youtube.com), if you, your friends, or your parents are over the age of 60. The insights provided in this short video underscore the importance of seeking help to strengthen your fast twitch muscles. Also, if you are still in the prime of your working years, these insights could help ensure a longer and healthier life for you.

As I surfed the web last night, I found a good article in Men’s Health about developing fast twitch muscles: Your Guide to Fast-Twitch Muscle Training (menshealth.com). It reminded me that my wife laughed at me recently when I purchased yet another piece of fitness equipment, a jump rope. It turns out that it is a safe way to develop fast twitch muscles. The fact is, it will probably be hilarious when I first attempt to jump rope at my age. Wish me luck!