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Fit after 100: Training Helps French Bicyclist Beat His Own World Record at 103

Centenarians Can Still Improve Fitness Levels, Study Finds

Bethesda, Md. (January 12, 2017)—Adults over 100 years old can still increase their athletic performance and physical fitness with regular training, researchers have found. The case study of Robert Marchand, the now 105-year-old who recently broke the 100+ cycling record—again—is published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

French researchers followed the cycling training routine of Marchand, a retired gardener and wine dealer who was born in 1911. Marchand cycled regularly between the ages of 15 and 25 but stopped cycling during his working years before starting again at age 70.

For the two years before he attempted a world record for cycling in the 100 and over age group, Marchard cycled more than 3,000 miles each year (5,000 km). The research team administered exercise tests before and after this two-year training period to measure his cardiovascular fitness, including exertion rate, breathing rate and maximum oxygen consumption. Body weight and muscle mass was also assessed.

Marchand set a world record for cycling 14 miles (24.25 km) in one hour at the age of 101 and broke his own record at age 103, completing 16 miles (26.92 km) in the same time frame. In the two-year span between these records, his revolution-per-minute (rpm) rate increased from 69 to 90. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max) also increased over the two-year period.

“Indeed, his VO2max was in the same range as those of a sedentary 50-year-old man or those of an active 65-year-old man and an endurance trained 80-year-old man,” the researchers wrote. “This study shows for the first time that it is still possible to improve performance after one’s 100th birthday by using polarizing training monitored with [rate of perceived exertion] and by focusing on a high pedaling cadence.”

Read the full article, “Case Studies in Physiology: Maximal Oxygen Consumption and Performance in a Centenarian Cyclist,” published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology. 

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,500 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.