The aging process affects the neuromuscular system, neural inputs, and the motor unit. Their effects on motor performance are profound, especially in the aging, and elderly populations. When people become older, their motor unit design and attributes alter, resulting in decreased motor performance, such as reduced maximum, slower contractile velocity, strength and power, and higher fatigability, power and strength. In motor activities, there is an increase in variability, including torque across contractions, greater contraction velocity variability, and a reduction in force stability (Hunter et al. 982). General body exercise has been depicted to alter the characteristics and functioning of motor units in older people.
Currently, it is unclear if variability in motor function will have implications on the outcome of a clinical trial. The huge number of cross-sectional research completed to date suggests that there is a great potential to undertake longitudinal studies throughout the aging continuum to identify the effects of aging. The neuromuscular movement is facilitated by the motor unit which is the functional unit of the system.
The Alpha motor neurons and the muscle together form the motor unit. The properties and functions of motor units in the elderly may change as a result of physical activity. For the time being, however, it is unknown what, if any, ramifications the heterogeneity in motor function will have. Given the large number of cross-sectional studies conducted to date, there is a significant opportunity to conduct longitudinal studies along the aging continuum.
Changing the number of active motor units alters the amount of force generated by skeletal muscles contractions. Since their characteristics and morphology vary with age and changed nervous system inputs, alterations in elderly adults’ motor function and performance may be severe. It seems, however, that aging affects the neuromuscular system in different ways. (Hunter et al. 982). Compared to other people of the same age and gender, some older people have significantly reduced motor performance.
As a result, between-subject variability tends to be higher in older people. Older persons have more inconsistent motor performance while doing the same task repeatedly, resulting in more within-subject variability than young adults. This age-related increase in between- and among-subject variability may be more pronounced in men and women above 80 years. In addition, there is also a decline in motor performance in aging individuals (Hunter et al. 985). This unpredictability results in less precise and less predictable performance, which may exacerbate the decline in motor function that comes with age.
However, when determining the overall performances of various age groups, it may be difficult to detect tiny changes in physiology and function that are induced by aging due to the nature of the data. Active aging is mediated by several mediators such as physical activity, genetics, food, hormonal status, and inflammation (Hunter et al. 983). As humans age and progress into really old life, these factors may have an effect on the motor unit and its function. Cross-sectional design studies, which include average motor performance metrics from persons across a large age range, may exaggerate some of this significant variation, which is seen in the literature.
- What is the impact and causes of growing variability in cognitive performance tasks due to advancing age?
- Does one’s lifestyle factors such as keeping fit help diminish age-related differences in motor function among the increasing number of older people?
Hunter, Sandra K., et al. “The Aging Neuromuscular System and Motor Performance.” Journal of Applied Physiology, vol. 121, no. 4. 2016, pp. 982–995. Web.