Everybody knows that as we age, we get slower, right? Well, recently New York Times released an article detailing this process in running. It seems logical to assume that age would equal to a slower pace in running, and it is. However, there wasn’t much research as to why that occurred until Paul DeVita, a professor of kinesiology and president of the American Society of Biomechanics, held an experiment in Winston-Salem, N.C. with 110 experienced runners between the ages of 23 to 59. What he discovered was surprising; people dropped their speed and stride by about 20% each decade. The researchers realized that the older we get the less we use lower leg muscles, like ankles and calves. Our running strides become smaller; therefore, we are slower. And, there “is evidence … that those muscles age earlier than other muscles in the body do” creating a bigger chance for “Achilles’ tendon and calf injuries”. So it seems that our bodies purposefully slow down to decrease a risk of injury.
To me it makes total sense, an older person is slower at running than a young person. But, it is interesting how. In the article, it not only mentioned shorter strides, but weaker steps and not raising as high into the air as younger people do. That all seems logical and a given, but the fact that our bodies may do that on purpose is remarkable. Our body’s muscles realize that they are not as strong as they once were, and then purposefully use those weaker muscles less to prevent injuries or straining. So, older experienced runners are slower, not because they may not be as in shape or don’t have the endurance, but because their bodies literally won’t allow them to go faster. It could almost be classified as “’a protective adaptation’ to slow down”. So no matter how in shape an older person is, they can never be as fast as before. It seems to be a necessary unfairness in life: only the young are allowed to run fast.