In 2010, researchers at the German Sport University of Cologne analyzed the finishing times of 900,000 marathon and half marathon runners. The age range was 20 – 79 and each trained consistently for an hour 3 – 4 times a week regardless of how old they were. The result was telling – there was no significant decline in performance before the age of 55, and even then it was minimal. In the 65 – 69 year old group, a full 25% had times that would rank above average among 20 – 54 year olds.
The Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana led by director Scott Trappe, regularly study the effects of muscle cells in regard to weight lifting. While age does make a difference in muscle recovery, particularly if you have been inactive for decades, it doesn’t stop you from growing muscles and maintaining strength even in your nineties.
Yale psychologist Becca Levy is one of many professionals studying the consequences of ageism. She found motivation and maintaining a good attitude are what keep us going. Levy tracked a group of 500 aged 70 – 96 over a few years and discovered less hearing loss in the individuals that didn’t buy into age stereotypes.
And if stats don’t move you, you can’t help but be encouraged by the story of Olga Kotelko. Her book, “What makes Olga run?” came out earlier this year. The Saskatchewan farm girl, and former teacher, took up track and field at 77. By the time she had turned 90 she had set 20 world records. She passed away in June at the age of 95, but not before she set 8 world records at the World Masters Athletics Championship in Budapest, Hungary. Olga definitely drank deeply from that fountain!