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.
VO2Max as a metric of fitness capacity over a lifetime
Our lungs and blood process a maximum amount of oxygen per minute, also known as VO2Max. You can find a video about VO2 Max where Professor Véronique Billat, a specialist in sports training, explains the concept.
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.
Two centenarians with lasting VO2 Max: Donald Pellmann, and Robert Marchand
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% the average speed for the world record, all ages combined. These two individuals were able to slow down the annual rate of decline to approximately 8% per decade. It is lower than the general population. 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 does the centenarian stay in good shape? Marchand has been active all his life, and minimized abuses of food and drinks. “Use everything, abuse nothing“, he often says.
Marchand practiced sports regularly his entire life. He was national champion in gymnastics and his strength level stayed higher than average. Compare to someone staying inactive for decades: when restarting, the person needs to re-develop muscles, ligament resistance, bone density, and perhaps most importantly, exercise habits.
While longevity by itself may not be 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 enjoy.
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