There's no denying we all age, but exactly when are we in peak physical fitness? According to Dr. William Frishman, director of Medicine at Westchester Medical Center, flagship of the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth), being young has a host of benefits.
The simple answer, said Dr. Frishman, is that our bodies peak in our 20s and 30s. The more nuanced response, however, is shaped by how we deal with reduced vigor and energy as we age, as well as the depression that can set in as we realize we’re not as invincible as we once were.
“Yes, the body ages and slows down. And there isn’t much variance to this,” said Frishman. “In essence, it’s all about the body’s supply and flow of adrenaline, which supports immune response, cognition and can even block pain.” The key, he said, is not to resign ourselves to a stereotypical view of old age, but to maximize what we have — at any age.
The 20s and 30s are peak performance periods — the apex of physical competence. “Elite athletes are mostly in their 20s and 30s,” Frishman pointed out. “As hardy as we may feel as teens, that’s not the age of best-ever health. How many 16-year-old professional baseball players do you see? And, on the other side of the spectrum, a pro athlete still active in his 40s is a rarity.”
Reflexes also peak in our 20s and 30s. To illustrate this, Dr. Frishman suggests watching the game show Jeopardy! “There are few — if any — much older contestants who compete. It’s not because the older one is, the less one knows; in fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s just that as you age, the speed-coordination combo gets slower. You can still know the answers to Jeopardy!; you just can’t buzz in as quickly.”
“It’s easier for women to get pregnant at 20 than at 40,” said. Frishman, “because of hormonal changes that occur with age, even before menopause. However, thanks to an array of fertility treatments and technologies, women giving birth in their 40s are more common than ever.”
To learn about peak cognition and "keeping a step," continue reading via Advancing Care in the Hudson Valley.