Getting older…


As of September 2017, new Sweat Science columns are being published at Check out my bestselling new book on the science of endurance, ENDURE: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, published in February 2018 with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell.

- Alex Hutchinson (@sweatscience)


We all are, obviously. These days, whenever I finish a workout that really wipes me out, I wonder whether I’m experiencing age-related decline, or whether I just had a good workout. I wrote about some of the ways we should change our exercise routines as we get older in a Jockology column last fall. But I didn’t have a lot of room to go into detail about the physiology underlying age-related decline — or some of the more subtle factors that affect us. For those who are interested, there’s a fantastic series on exercise and aging currently in progress at The Science of Sport, which is a site run by two sports scientists who trained with the legendary Tim Noakes in South Africa.

Two parts of the series have come out: the first is a general introduction to the topic, while the second goes over the basic physiology related to exercise and aging. A teaser: they begin by presenting the graph showing the best marathon performances for every age from teenagers to nonagenarians.

The Science of Sport's marathon vs. age graph
The Science of Sport's marathon vs. age graph

So that tells us the rate at which our performance will decline with age, right? Wrong — and that’s the whole point of their series:

However, in this case, that predicted decline is based on perhaps 50 DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS, and you’d be completely incorrect to assume that age causes a decline in performance that is predicted by the equation X. It doesn’t work that way.

Definitely worth a read…