Training regularly at 73, Dr. Robert Fitts says slower lifting of moderate loads can dramatically increase muscle power in older people.
of a chair could require a large percentage of their strength by the time they were 63 years old. The active women didn’t reach that limit until they were 73, on average. “They had a 10-year advantage,” she says of that group. Our younger selves may not fully appreciate the difference. “When you’re young, performing daily activities of living is easy because you’ve got to use such a small percentage of your strength,” Hunter continues. “As you age, you become so much less strong, but if you’re active you can offset some of those limitations.” The pair thinks it’s the muscles themselves — and learning how to exercise them most effectively as we age — that hold the key. Strength training for older adults was once seen as out of the question by many medical professionals, but Hunter
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points out that, since the 1990s, it has increasingly become recognized as a key to better health and functioning for everyday living. The project aims to finetune that principle with an eye toward developing routines better suited to the physiology of the aging body. Our muscles fall into two general categories: in layman’s terms “fast” and “slow” muscle fibers, Fitts explains. When we’re young, a combination of fast and slow muscle fibers is prevalent in our musculature. As we age, the slow fibers increasingly dominate. And the two groups of muscle fibers can respond differently to training. The standard workout practiced by everyone from teenage swimmers or football players to active middle-age gym rats — rapid lifts and squats and other actions with heavy weights — trains their fast muscle fibers well. But for the slow muscle fibers