Senior Exercise and Fast Twitch Muscles

People jogging

Aging doesn’t mean you have to surrender your speed. Whether you’re 35 or 65, you can participate in exercises designed to develop your fast-twitch muscle fibers and keep you moving. While your overall speed will decrease with age, you can avoid losing it altogether by focusing on plyometrics, agility drills and strength-training. By adding these components to an overall healthy lifestyle, you’ll be leaving your competition in the dust even in your senior years.

Muscle Fibers

Your muscles are made up of two kinds of fibers: fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch fibers allow you to generate a high amount of force in a short period of time. Slow-twitch fibers generate force, as well, but do so more slowly and fatigue less quickly. Sprinters, running backs and other explosive athletes have higher percentages of fast-twitch muscle, which enables them to burst with power more rapidly than others.

Muscles and Age

According to the “Boston Globe,” beginning at age 30, most people lose roughly 1 percent of muscle every year as the body starts to tear down old muscle at a faster rate than it builds new tissue. Your muscles also lose strength and flexibility, and your body begins to experience a decrease in overall balance. However, the ratio of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibers remains the same regardless of your age. If you had a 60-to-40 ratio of fast- to slow-twitch fibers in your youth, you will retain that ratio as you age.

Benefits of Exercise

While your muscle and athletic performance will decline as you age, the process can be slowed by physical training. By increasing or maintaining your fitness level, you can decrease your risk of age-related sarcopenia -- severe muscle loss -- while also preserving the strength of your bones and reducing your chances of developing a variety of diseases. Plus, by being strategic with your workouts, you can continue to develop your fast-twitch muscle fibers and retain some of your speed and agility.

Senior Workouts for Fast-Twitch Muscle

You can develop your fast-twitch muscles at your age the same way you did in your youth -- by strength-training and doing speed drills. Keeping a regular weight-lifting routine, specifically for your lower body and core, will help you retain muscle altogether, which is half the battle. Also engage in plyometrics and agility exercises. Your physical condition will determine what drills you are able to do, but focus on moves that force you to generate power quickly such as jumps and sprints. When doing cardio sessions -- whether you’re on an elliptical, bike or treadmill or other device -- include speed intervals and occasional hills or inclines to challenge the speed and power of your muscles.

Important Considerations

Because your body’s ability to recover decreases with age, be sure to include adequate rest in your fitness routine. Also, when weight-training, use supported machines as often as possible to avoid back strain and never lift more weight than you can handle. For even greater safety, avoid exercising alone and keep regular check-ups with your physician, consulting with him before beginning any new workout routine.