In the world of competitive cycling, the most prestigious mark is the “hour record”: the longest distance cycled in one hour from a stationary start. The current record holder is Bradley Wiggins, who pedaled 54.526 kilometers during his attempt in June 2015.
Robert Marchand didn’t cycle quite so far when he undertook the feat a year earlier, only 26.93 kilometers. But that mark isn’t too shabby for a man born in 1911. In fact, it’s a record for his age group.
Now a spry 105, Marchand is still active today. Aside from his frequent two-wheeled adventures along the scenic roads and trails of France, he’s found time to sate the curiosity of scientists. For the last four years, the centenarian cyclist has happily allowed researchers at the University of Evry-Val d’Essonne to monitor his progress. Professor Veronique Billat and her team recently published a brief case study describing his incredible physiological feats.
Over the two years before setting the hour record in January 2014, Marchand cycled around 10,000 kilometers (roughly 13.7 per day). During that time, he increased his VO2 Max, a measure of aerobic fitness, by 13 percent. His peak power output also increased by 25 percent. Both results demonstrate that the human body is still capable of adapting and strengthening past 100. Marchand’s impressive aerobic fitness is roughly on par with a fit man aged 42 to 61.
A significant portion of Marchand’s success can be credited to sturdy genetics, but weighing in just as heavily is his lifelong dedication to exercise. As more and more individuals reach the upper echelons of human lifespan, research is showing that they aren’t destined to frailty. Regular physical activity really can result in healthy aging, preserving cogntive and physical function.
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