Why is it important to maintain power as we age?
Power has been described as the most important physical performance variable in maintaining independence, fall prevention and overcoming injury in ageing adults. The ability to react to the environment and move with some speed is important in many activities of daily living, including climbing stairs, rising from a chair, recovering during a slip, and gait performance.
There are two main categories of power in the fitness field: metabolic and mechanical power. Metabolic power covers both anaerobic and aerobic power and is concerned with the energy pathways utilised during physical activity.
Mechanical power is a product of force and acceleration, or ostensibly strength and speed. It declines after the age of 20 as our muscles’ cross sectional area reduces due to losses in strength. Losses in power over the years appear to be typically more dramatic than losses in strength alone. It is the faster twitch (type 2) muscle fibres associated with muscular strength that exert the most influence on power, but the element of speed of movement is key. Power has been described as a separate attribute to strength.
Drops in strength and power can be arrested and reversed through appropriate training.
To increase power it is necessary to add speed to an exercise. Movements must be attempted at speed to gain improvements in power and functional performance. However, caution should be used if you are new to power training. A foundation of strength is essential.
The safest way to add speed to a movement is with rubber tubing, and light plyometric exercises. The end range of movement is where risk of injury is highest so rubber tubing is safe as it slows you down near that end of range. Light plyometric exercise such as stair hopping, leaping, jumping, throwing and catching medicine balls and rebound press ups from a wall are all good choices. Fast swimming is a very safe and effective option as the resistance increases as movement speed through the water increases. A grounding level of strength is required before attempting faster exercise and guidance on exercise choice is recommended. We can help you there!