Why does the annual rate of decline matter? Life is the biological ability to interact with the environment, and that ability comes from clearing a minimum bar. We can sustain a given level of gravitational force. Our lungs and blood process a maximum amount of oxygen per minute, also known as VO2Max. We reach our physical peak performance as young adults until around the mid thirties. From there, the laws of nature take us into a slow decline. If you like life, you want to retain fitness.
Centenarians give a clue to the process, particularly those involved in athletic activities. Last month an article highlighted two centenarian athletes who are still competing, Donald Pellmann in running, and Robert Marchand in cycling. Their performance are about 50% that of the world record, all ages combined. These two individuals were able to slow down the annual rate of decline. Véronique Billat shows this in her book, VO2Max through the test of time. Marchand’s annual attrition of VO2Max was slower than the average person. How? Marchand has been active all his life, and minimized abuses of food, drinks. “Use everything, abuse nothing“, he often says. Marchand practiced sports regularly his entire life. His strength level stayed higher than average. Compare to someone stopping for decades: when restarting one needs to re-develop muscles, ligament resistance, bone density, and perhaps most importantly habits.
While longevity by itself is not a goal, avoiding early decline helps stay focused on your goals. Being able to pursue what you want, creating, undisturbed by physical ailment is something that everyone should be able to have.