This week I came across two interesting articles on the correlation between exercise, performance and age. The first article is on how fast performance deteriorates with age and is written by expert coach (and authority!) Joe Friel with great commentary on scientific studies. But a picture is worth more than a thousand words, so here are the three key graphs for cycling, running, and swimming.
The graphs show the completion time for a certain record (on the vertical axis) in a discipline depending on the age (on the horizontal axis) of the record holder:
Interestingly, the deterioration (the slope of the curve) in cycling seems rather linear, while it is super-linear for running and swimming (as we get older the deterioration accelerates). Two remarks:
- Notice that the cycling data stops at age 60, while the other two go to age 90, so the same accelerating deterioration could happen to cyclists. But I have anecdotal evidence to hope that linearity extends beyond 60: I have good friends in their sixties who still cycle very fast = GOOD NEWS!
- Notice that this data is about the “frontier” of best performance (by record holders): this does not imply that those of us below the frontier cannot still improve as we age from, say, 47 to 50… (I love the concept of the frontier and, sneaking in some marketing, use it often in my operations strategy book and class.)
The second good news comes from France: “La belle longévité des coureurs du Tour de France” finds that (French pro) cyclists (that have raced the Tour de France) on average live 6.3 years longer than the rest of the population. And I share the hopes of my friend Gerry:
What this means is hard to say and, like the article points out, is only focusing on one aspect of a person’s life (being a TdF rider) and not, for example, their socio-economic reality, etc.
But I will take this as positive news and I am hoping that my 20,000 meters of climbing in Haute Route counts for at least a few extra weeks above ground.