Hello, lovelies! I’ve been a bit MIA as my company gave us both Monday and Tuesday off, so thanks for bearing with me as I get out of bride-brain and back into work/social media mode. However, during the weekend I found an article via Twitter that made me stop in my tracks: “Study Suggests Sport Performance Peaks From 20 To 30 Years Of Age, Then Declines Irreversibly.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa…a title like this is enough to make any casual athlete groan. The article states that the “physiological parameters that characterize human capabilities (mobility, reproduction or the capacity to perform tasks) evolve throughout the life cycle.” Apparently, they believe that both physical and intellectual abilities begin when you are conceived, and the performance of each of us is determined at birth. Then we grow old, they peak at a certain age and then decline before we die. Thanks for the pick-me up – I feel better already.
The study goes on to say that there is a relationship between changes in performance and how old we are. This simple idea did not strike me as anything new. We’re born, our abilities evolve, we grow old, they decline. But what shocked me even more was the age call-outs at which our performance is supposed to peak.
“This peak is reached at the age of 26.1 years for the disciplines studied: athletics (26.0 years), swimming (21.0 years) and chess (31.4 years).” Damn it, if only I played chess I’d have a few more good years left in me. To top it all off, they said that the decline in abilities is IRREVERSIBLE. As a young woman who is approaching her birthday in August and will apparently be reaching my “peak,” this study was a bit disheartening. Over the past year, I’ve felt that I am just now coming into what I’m capable of and am looking forward to improving those abilities for many more years to come.
Am I jealous that Chicken Face got to see Paula Radcliffe sprint to the finish at the NYC marathon and snap this pic? Maybe.
When I re-tweeted the article, many folks replied with equal fear and disdain. “What about Dana Tores, Paula Radcliffe, Kara Goucher?!” Were they just born with magical biological abilities? Then I stumbled upon this NYT article (albeit, it’s from 2008): Elite Women Getting Older, and Better. While the article does have one race director thinking the aging group of elite female runners is a “fluke,” the article goes on to state, “To some, the current wave of older women succeeding in marathons makes sense. More women are running the distance these days, they say, so more they are training at a higher level…More women are also sticking with the marathon because of the economic incentive”.”
Even the NYT had researchers predict peak performance ages, “…sprinters peaked at 22 to 24, and marathoners peaked at 28 to 31. Some marathoners reach peak performance around 35, he added. The trick is finding the way to extend that time frame…The slow-twitch muscles needed in endurance sports do not decline significantly until athletes reach their late 30s or early 40s…But fast-twitch muscles that sprinters rely on begin deteriorating in their late 20s and early 30s.”
I do believe that over time our bodies will begin to wear down and we will not be able to perform as we once did. It’s a simple fact of life. However, I do not believe that once we hit 26, we irreversibly are doomed. I know plenty of people who are in better share then they ever were when they were running in their 20s.
Do you think that this decline is IRREVERSIBLE? Do you think that elite athletes can sustain their running mojo longer than casual athletes? What are your two cents on this striking new study?