March 24, 2019 • 2 min
Do you think you are too old to do sport? Think again. An analysis of the world’s oldest record- breakers has named 104-year-old cyclist Robert Marchand as champion. Romuald Lepers at the University of Burgundy, in Dijon, France, and his colleagues have investigated how age affects athletic performance. While looking at middle-aged athletes, the team began to wonder who the world’s best 100-plus sportsperson might be. They identified all the best performances by centenarians in athletics, swimming and cycling. Then they compared each athlete with the world record holder in their discipline. The centenarian athlete who showed the smallest decline was Frenchman Robert Marchand. Cycling 26.93 kilometres in 1 hour, Marchand was only 50.6 percent slower than Bradley Wiggins’s 54.53 km record. The study has also shown that athletic ability can be maintained until 35 to 40, and after that, performance decreases by about 10 percent per decade But Marchand’s ability has declined much more slowly. Lepers says that Marchand has extraordinary muscular and cardiorespiratory function for his age. His performance corresponds to an age-related decline of less than 8 percent per decade. Lepers suggests that these athletes are not only remarkable biological examples, but they could also be good role models for others to follow. “Take Canadian Ed Withlock," he says. Withlock was the first person over 70 to run a marathon in less than 3 hours. He took up running in his 40s. “It’s never too late to be active," says Lepers.