Champion Runner At 80 Years Old? Are Elite Athletes Holding Onto A Secret?


By Justin Cowart

Did you know that elite runners don’t actually experience the type of muscle weakening that is normally associated with aging as non-athletes do?  

In a new study that was published in American Journal of Physiology – Cell Physiology, it examines if their superb type of fitness is because their muscles have not aged.

Strength and movement actually come from muscle fibers that make up a muscle group, generating tension and contraction. Muscle weakening tends to happen when the fibers start to contract slower and with less force.  

A Canadian team of researchers have hypothesized that the constant physical training of older elite-type runners was actually able to preserve their muscle fibers in such a way that their fibers behaved like those of younger adults.

For the study, muscle fibers were taken from the quadriceps of older runners and also from non-athlete adults in the same age range. University of Guelph’s in Canada and lead author, Goff Power, says that,

“One of the most unique and novel aspects of this study are the exceptional participants. These are individuals in their 80s and 90s who actively compete in the world masters track and field championships. In the study, we had seven world champions and everyone placed in the top four of their respective events.”

The contraction speed and force of the fibers were then compared to fibers from 23-year-old non-athlete adults. From this data, the researchers were able to determine that muscle fibers from the older non-athletes contracted considerably weaker and slower than fibers from the younger non-athletes.

These test results left the researchers in great surprise – the muscle fibers of master athletes actually contracted at a force and speed similar to those of older non-athlete adults and not the young adults.

The success in high-performance sports in older age doesn’t actually appear to be due to maintained contraction capability of the fibers, says Power.

The results of the study actually suggest that aging is associated with decreased muscle quality, regardless of physical activity status, according to Power. Other studies have actually shown that muscle fibers can be arranged in a variety of ways to be able to optimize speed, power and strength of the whole muscle.

Power goes on to say that there are so many different structural ways to compensate for the reduced performance at the fiber level to be able to maintain performance at the whole muscle level.

The researchers were able to find that in the older populus, if you strive to live a healthy, active life, your body may actually stay somewhat young. Trust me, I know that it isn’t always easy to eat healthy nor is it easy to keep a regular workout schedule.

Yet, if you strive to do those two things, you can start living a more fulfilled and active lifestyle.

We would love to hear all of your thoughts and opinions on this topic in the comments below!


Justin Cowart

Justin Cowart

Justin Cowart is a writer and researcher that loves to learn more about health, life, consciousness and making the world a better place. He loves music, traveling, meditation, video games and spending time with family and friends. He believes in baby steps and lifestyle changes in order to live a full life. In 2014, he lost around 40lbs from baby steps and emotional detoxing.
Justin Cowart


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