Have you ever noticed that as most people age they begin to move more slowly? It seems to take them forever to get out of a chair, walk across the room or bend down to pick something up. This is because as we age we lose about 7 pounds of muscle each decade and this loss is predominantly a loss 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 very slowly. However, the good news is that this loss can be slowed down and in some cases, prevented by training your fast twitch muscles. The rule is “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. 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.
Here are some ideas to help you maintain your agility and mobility as you age. Try to perform at least one agility drill 2-3x each week.
Lateral Agility 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 seconds. Recover and complete 3-5x.
Place 3 cones 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 rectangle or square 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.
An easy way to incorporate agility training into your training program without even knowing it is by participating in sports like skiing, ice skating, inline skating, squash, tennis, racquetball, basketball, Frisbee or volleyball which all involve a high level of agility and speed. 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 – and it’s a fun way to achieve these benefits.
Yours in health & fitness,