“If you don’t use it, you lose it.” When we were young, we ran, skipped, climbed, jumped and sprinted, but as we get older, we tend not to move as quickly. As a result, as we age, we lose about 7 pounds of muscle each decade and this loss is predominantly noted in the number and size of fast twitch muscle fibers.
These muscle fibers are the ones responsible for allowing an individual to move quickly, and to maintain agility, reaction time, strength and power. As these fibers atrophy, we find ourselves moving much slower than our younger years and our quality of movement deteriorates.
However, the good news is that this loss can be slowed down and, in some cases, prevented by training your fast twitch muscles. So, it’s important to do whatever you can to keep these muscle fibers working so they don’t perceive that they are no longer needed.
Participating in sports such as tennis, squash, racquetball, pickleball, soccer, basketball, volleyball, and ultimate frisbee will help to slow down the loss in fast twitch muscle fibers. You could also consider enrolling in dance programs like Salsa or Ballroom dancing or choreography-based fitness classes like Zumba and Hip Hop. These types of activities will keep you agile and mobile into your later years – plus it’s a fun way to achieve these benefits.
Here are some other movement drills to help you maintain your agility and mobility as you age.
Try to perform at least one agility drill 2-3x each week.
This one doesn’t require any equipment. Just start moving your feet quickly out and in and/or forward and backward. Continue 30-60 seconds leading with one leg and repeat on the other side.
Skipping is a wonderful way to maintain fast twitch muscles. Pick up a skipping rope at your local sporting goods or department store. You can even skip without a rope and just go through the motions.
Place a cone/marker and start in a prone/plank position 20 feet behind it. Quickly stand up and sprint forward to the cone. Walk back and do it again 3-5x.
Side to Side Drill
Position 2 cones, chairs or props a few feet apart. Now quickly step laterally to the outside of one cone and back to the outside of the other touching down towards the floor or cone on each end. Try to go as fast as you possibly can. Continue for 30-60 seconds. Recover and complete 3-5x.
4 Corner Drill
Position 4 cones or props in a square formation and stand in the middle of the cones. Run forward/backwards to one cone and then back to the middle. Then run to the next cone and back to the middle and so on. Continue for 30-60 seconds. Recover and complete 3-5x.
Place 3 cones or props in a straight line each about 20 feet apart. Start the exercise by sprinting or walking fast to the first cone, then shuffle backwards to the starting point. Then sprint to the second cone, then shuffle backwards to the starting point. Then sprint all the way to the third cone, then shuffle backwards to the starting point. Take a short break and then repeat this 3-5x.
Place 4 cones in the shape of a square or rectangle with each cone about 20 feet apart from each other. Start at one corner and sprint to the top of the square. Then shuffle across the top of the square. Then back-shuffle. Then laterally shuffle back to the start. Do this 3-5x one way. Take a break and go the other way. You can also do this drill on a tennis court and use the corners as your markers.
Yours in health & fitness,