Friday, August 22, 2008

Getting Better With Age: Dive In

“Researchers at the Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming at Indiana University found that the population of Masters swimmers (made up of 42,500 members ages 18 to 100-plus) has gotten faster over the last 20 years in age groups from 25 to 55, said Joel Stager, the center’s director. Why is that? They are applying better skills. ‘Technique trumps training,’ Dr. Stager said. ‘Water is the great equalizer.’ Chief among the reasons for the speediness, say coaches, researchers and swimmers themselves, are improved stroke mechanics and training methods emphasizing intensity over distance. This is good news for those who like to race, and for those taking to the water for fitness at any age. As they age, people lose muscle mass and cardiovascular capacity, which declines by 1 to 1.5 percent annually. But for regular exercisers, the rate of decline is slower, researchers say. ‘Before, it was thought that athletes peak at 25,’ said Scott Trappe, the director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. But now the paradigm is shifting. ‘People are paying attention to their own fitness and nutrition.’ Swimmers can compensate for the body’s decline mostly because the water rewards those who are more technically proficient, and because the sport is non-weight-bearing and enables prolonged participation. ‘People can and do get faster, despite the fact that they may be 10, 20 years older than when they first started,’ Dr. Stager said.”

No comments: