He is 93 years old and has the physical condition of a 40-year-old: his case gives scientists a lesson about aging

Richard Morgan competed in an indoor rowing competition in 2018.  (Row2k.com)
Richard Morgan competed in an indoor rowing competition in 2018. (Row2k.com)

To learn how to age well, the worst thing we can do is Richard Morgan,

At the age of 93, Irishman is four-time world indoor rowing champion, with the aerobic motor of a healthy 30 or 40 year old man and the body fat percentage of a sighthound (greyhound dog). He’s also the subject of a new case study published last month in the Journal of Applied Physiology, which looked at his training, diet and physiology.

Their results show that, in many ways, An example of healthy, fit aging is: a non-adult whose heart, muscles, and lungs are less than half their age. But in other ways, he’s normal: a former baker and drum maker with creaky knees, who didn’t exercise regularly until he was 70 and still trains mostly in his backyard shed.

Although her fitness routine started later in life, she has now rowed around the world nearly 10 times and won four world championships. So, the researchers asked, what effect did exercise in old age have on their aging bodies?

“If we want to understand aging we need to observe very active older people.”said Bas Van Hooren, a doctoral researcher at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and one of the study’s authors.

Many questions remain unanswered about the biology of aging and whether the physical deceleration and muscle loss that typically occurs with aging is normal and inevitable or perhaps, at least in part, due to lack of exercise. it occurs.

That said, if some people can stay strong and fit well into their golden years, it follows that many of us can do the same.

Fortunately, his colleague Lorcan Daly, assistant professor of exercise science at Shannon University of Technology in Ireland, was quite familiar with an example of successful aging. His grandfather is Morgan, the 2022 world indoor rowing champion in the lightweight, 90–94 age category.

What made Morgan particularly interesting to researchers was that He didn’t start playing sports or doing physical exercise until he was 73. Retired but still with something to give, he participated in rowing practices with one of his other grandchildren, a competitive collegiate rower. The coach invited him to use a machine.

“He never looked back,” Daly said.

Morgan joined researchers in the Physiology Laboratory at the University of Limerick in Ireland.  (Lorcan Daly)
Morgan joined researchers in the Physiology Laboratory at the University of Limerick in Ireland. (Lorcan Daly)

He invited Morgan, who was 92 at the time, to the Physiology Laboratory of the University of Limerick in Ireland to learn more, measuring his height, weight and body composition, and collecting details about his diet. They also examined their metabolism and heart and lung function.

Then they asked him to get on a rowing machine and run a simulated 2,000-meter time trial while his heart, lungs, and muscles were monitored.

“It was one of the most inspiring days I’ve ever spent in the lab.”said Philip Jakeman, professor of healthy ageing, physical performance and nutrition at the University of Limerick and lead author of the study.

Morgan proved to be a yearling powerhouse, weighing in at 165 pounds (about 75 kg). 80 percent muscle and only 15 percent fatFigures that would be considered healthy for a person decades younger.

During the time trial, His heart rate reached 153 beats per minuteWell above the expected maximum heart rate for your age One of the highest peaks ever recorded for a 90-year-oldResearchers believe this indicates a very strong heart.

His heart rate was also rising much faster toward this peak, meaning his heart was able to supply oxygen and fuel to his working muscles faster. These “oxygen uptake kinetics,” a key indicator of cardiovascular health, were comparable to those of a normal, healthy 30- or 40-year-old person, Daly said.

Perhaps most impressive, the researchers said, was that they developed this physical condition with a simple and relatively brief exercise routine.

  • Stability: Each week, he rows about 30 kilometers (about 18.5 miles), averaging about 40 minutes a day.
  • Combination of easy, medium and intense training: About 70 percent of these workouts are easy, and Morgan barely puts in any effort. The other 20 percent do it at a hard but tolerable pace, and the remaining 10 at maximum, barely sustainable intensity.
  • weight training: Two or three times a week, he also trains with weights, using adjustable dumbbells to complete about three sets of lunges and push-ups, repeating each movement until his muscles feel strong enough to continue. Don’t get too tired.
  • Protein rich diet: He eats a lot of protein and his daily intake regularly exceeds the normal dietary recommendation of about 60 grams of protein for a person of his weight.
Richard Morgan with his wife Rita.  (family photo)
Richard Morgan with his wife Rita. (family photo)

“This is an interesting case study that sheds light on our understanding of exercise adaptations across the lifespan,” said Scott Trappe, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Indiana. He has studied many older athletes, but was not involved in the new study.

“We are still learning how to initiate an exercise program in older age,” he said, “but the evidence is quite clear that the human body retains the ability to adapt to exercise at any age.”

In fact, Morgan’s fitness and physical strength at age 93 shows that “we don’t need to lose large amounts of muscle and aerobic capacity” as we age, Jakeman said. Exercise can help us develop and maintain a strong and capable body, no matter our ageHe claimed.

Of course, Morgan probably had some genetic advantages, scientists say. Sailing skill appears to be hereditary.

And his racing performance in recent years has been slower than it was 15, 10 or even five years ago. Exercise will not erase the effects of aging. But it can prevent harm to our bodies, Morgan’s example tells us. This may level the decline.

It also provides other less physical rewards. “There is a certain joy in achieving a world championship,” Morgan tells me through his grandson with almost comical humility.

“I started from scratch and suddenly I realized it was such a joy to do this,” he said.

(c) The Washington Post

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