Research shows that you can run faster.
Does age automatically mean that there’s a decline in our athletic endeavors? A commonly held belief is the older we get the poorer our sporting performance gets, but this isn’t necessarily true and I believe that osteopathy can help all runners and other athletes whatever their age maintain their speed and possibly reduce the impact of injury.
A recent post in the NY Times reported on some good news for older runners. The results from the experiment on aging factors and running economy suggest that ‘age-related declines in running performance are associated with declines in maximal and submaximal cardiorespiratory variables and declines in strength and power, not because of declines in running economy.’
What may be confusing to a lay person is that they’re confusing economy and efficiency and muscle with muscle cells.
What they meant by this is your muscles cells don’t lose efficiency. ie older muscles cells use oxygen as well as younger muscles.
In fact muscles that have been trained for endurance events use oxygen more efficiently. The Genetics and Molecular Biology of Muscle Adaptation (Advances in Sport and Exercise Science) highlights research that shows that mitochondria, the powerhouse of a cell, do their job better the more the muscle is used, or to put it another way, the older the muscles and the person using the muscle is, the greater the potential for speed and endurance.
So according to the experiment, the decline doesn’t come from decreases in the efficiency of the muscle cells, it comes from the decline of your heart and lungs and the decline in strength and power of your muscles. Or to put it my way the decline comes from decreases in the economy of effort used during movement.
The experiment noted that older runners had decreased upper body strength compared to younger runners and that while they both had similar leg power, the older runners had decreased leg flexibility.
While using your arms does help pump your lungs, there doesn’t appear to be any correlation between upper body muscle mass or power and respiratory efficiency. The movement of the rib cage and the diaphragm (the main respiratory muscle) were not assessed in this study, but age can and does tighten these leading to decreased flexibility there as well.
Correcting these decreases in flexibility is where an osteopath could play a crucial role in maintaining your athletic performance. How is what I’m going to talk about in Part 2 >