"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

Age Well – Never Get Rid of Your Bicycle!

Follow in the footsteps of Mr. Robert Marchand—the 105-year-old cyclist

Never get rid of your bicycle.

Especially not when you retire. (It’s anyway not a good idea to retire.) Keep your pedal bike at hand, well after you turn 60, or 70, or 80, or 90 and even long after you turn a hundred.

This is what Robert Marchand did, a 105-year-old Parisian. He is the present world-record holder for the longest distance cycled in one hour by a 100+-year-old: 26,92 km. (Record set in January 2014.) In January 2017, aged 105, he “slowed down” to 22,5 km in one hour.

The number of elderly individuals (> 65 years old) worldwide continues to increase. The projection is an increase of 6.9% of the world population 2000 to 19.3% in 2050. Persons > 80 years is the fastest growing section of this population. It is estimated that the global number of individuals who are over a hundred, amounts to 450,000.

The disease burden of aging populations is astronomical and will become a progressive challenge for the health care systems of most countries if the elderly is not empowered to age well. Remaining physically and mentally fit beyond 70, 80, 90, and a 100 year of age is not only crucial but possible. It is the best measure to ensure continued independent living, improved quality of life, remaining a contributing member of society and the prevention of chronic lifestyle diseases, especially dementia.

Muscles and brain can continue to grow and develop as one age. It is a myth that you lose muscle due to aging—it is due to nonuse. A fascinating study was published by Andrew Wroblewski in 2011 in which they demonstrated it was possible to build muscle in old age, beyond 80—not only remain fit but actually sculpt muscle (and brain).

Mr. Robert Marchand was born on November 26, 1911, in Paris. He fell in love with cycling as a young boy and has remained a cycling enthusiast lifelong, although he followed many career paths. During the 1930s he was a firefighter in Paris. He has cut trees in Canada. He has sold shoes for a living. He was a professional gardener. And in his later years, sold wine, before retiring at age 76. (Did I say don’t retire? A prolonged working life may provide survival benefits.)

Mr. Marchand’s first world record for the one-hour track cycling was a distance of 24, 251 km at age 100 (February 2012.) After following a different training program, he improved his own record to 26,92 km, two years later at age 102 (Jan 2014.)

On Jan 4, 2017, now aged 105, he pedaled 22,5 km in one hour on an indoor track. (Once the snow thaws and disappear, I challenge all of you—see what you can manage in one hour!)

Véronique Billat and colleagues did a study on Mr. Marchant, aiming to prove that it was possible to improve and increase exercise tolerance (also called cardiorespiratory fitness or VO2 max) between 101 and 103 years of age. (Improve fitness in the oldest of the oldest!) They did their first assessment, determined his VO2max and let him follow a specified program for two years, after which they repeated their tests and assessments.

When Mr. Marchand improved his one-hour track cycling distance in 2014 from 24, 25 to 26,92 km, he validated their assumption—it is indeed possible to become fitter and stronger, with exercise and training, beyond a hundred years of age! (And live to tell it.)

Mr. Marchand’s cycling-life took a three-decade long hiatus between ages 35 and 65. He again became serious in 1978 at age 68. He has participated in several amateur races over the years and cycles between 10 – 20 kilometers per day, averaging 5,000 km per year. Nowadays, he prefers indoors cycling. His reason? “I’m afraid I may catch the flu if I do it outside!”

I believe it’s quite acceptable to stick to indoors cycling only once you turn a hundred!

Do you believe you can do this too? Why not?

You are never too old.

If you’re unfit, start slower and work up. It’s fun. It makes sense. Use cycling lanes and paths and ride safely. Or, stick to indoors!

Above all, enjoy it!

Remember, never put your bicycle away as you grow older!
    1. Billat VL et al. Case studies in physiology: maximal oxygen consumption and performance in a centenarian cyclist. J Appl Physiol 2016 Dec 19. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00569.2016
    2. Velonews – 4 Jan 2017
    3. The Sun – Who is Robert Marchand? 4 Jan 2017
    4. The New York Times – Feb 8, 2017 – Lessons on aging well, from a 105-year-old cyclist 
    5. Wroblewski AP, Amati F, Smiley MA, Goodpaster B, Wright V. Chronic Exercise preserve lean muscle in master athletes. Phys Sportsmed. 2011 Sep; 39(3): 172-8. doi: 10.381/psm.2011.09.1933
    6. 101 Ways to live to a hundred. Secret no. 48: Cycling 

© 2017 Danie Botha. All Rights Reserved.

Robert Marchand – IMG – Daily Mail

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