Fitness, athleticism and health decline with age- but what age does it actually start?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 14, 2013 at 6:38 PM

So its well known that physical health and athleticism decline with age. But what is the absolute peak age and tipping point where somebody is no longer at their absolutee 100%?

meaning, what age will somebody start seeing decline, even if only a 1% decline?

Does a 25 year old really have the 100% same atheletic ability to sprint, run, and jump as a 19 year old? does a 23 year old?

I suspect if you took 100,000 people and tested them every month of their lives, conducting tests that could measure tiny incremental differences in performance, you would see that the absolute atheltic peak is over by the 21st birthday. I think the peak occurs from around 18.5 to 20.25, but by 20 and a half you're already in decline, even if only by 1%

you probably wont notice anything more than a 5% the decline until late 20s, and an ordinary person until late 30s, but by 21, you have already past your prime

what do you think? what have you noticed in yourself?


on April 15, 2013
at 01:34 AM

This is a great question. Just because it's Bill who is asking...



on April 14, 2013
at 09:00 PM

Go away, Bill Bailey. You have asked this same question so many times that not only is it stupid, it is also repetitive.



on April 14, 2013
at 07:41 PM

a fine example of assburgers



on April 14, 2013
at 07:15 PM

Again? I thought you finally left.

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6 Answers


on April 14, 2013
at 06:56 PM

I'm in my 50's, I think it is a hard question to answer because very few people train hard throughout their entire lives. I sure didn't.

Based on my experience there is no way that it is 21 or even close to it. I would put my absolute peak in the 26-28 range, as far as overall fitness and athleticism. That was the age range where I could do pretty much anything.

A human for certain doesn't peak until after he or she is done growing. Once you are done growing, then 100% of your resources can be directed to making you faster and stronger. Give yourself several years of training hard after you have done growing, and there's your peak.



on April 14, 2013
at 08:49 PM

Edit: I hit my absolute peak in my early 40s.

A lot of this is tied to your personal genetics, I believe. In my early 40s I had about the same speed and strength as I did in my youth and I had much better endurance. I rode my bike about 78 miles every Saturday.

Now, as a 66-year-old, I am not as fast or strong as in my 40s but I am definitely stronger and faster than anyone I know of my age or older. When a friend is unable to move/lift something, I step in and I'm always amazed at how easily I can perform the task.

I get funny looks in stores because I have but I have steel gray hair but I move like a much younger person. I take no meds and, now that I avoid refined wheat flour, I have no chronic physical complaints. If I've slipped at all mentally I can't tell, and my family (son and grandson) swear I haven't.

If this makes you think I've eaten healthy and been highly active my whole life, think again. My life has consisted of at least 4 yo-yo cycles involving gains and losses of 50 pounds or more. When fat, I ate SAD junk and sweets and was a couch potato; when slim, I was highly active. Over the decades, the fat losses were achieved in different ways: the first was on SAD, but eating only 1 meal per day; the second was by counting calories; the 3rd was on "healthy low-fat, whole grains, skinless/boneless meat;" the most recent was on easygoing paleo. After my first year, I relapsed and gained the weight back again, but it's nearly half gone again after 2 months back on whole foods.

I currently need to lose at around 35 pounds of excess fat, and happily it is melting away at a nice steady pace as long as I avoid the refined wheat flour. Fruit and starches don't slow my fat loss, nor does animal fat. I have normal cholesterol and blood pressure.

As I said, genetics are pretty important in this question.


on April 14, 2013
at 08:33 PM

FWIW, Carl Lewis set a world record in the 100 at age 30. At that same meet, he was the first person ever to jump longer than Bob Beamon. Carl Lewis, at least, kept improving up to age 30. He may have had better training methods at 30 than at 25, maybe, but I'm sure he had pretty good training all along. If he had been in decline by age 30, it sure wasn't very much of a decline!



on April 14, 2013
at 08:05 PM

That's hard to say, but I'm going to say that it starts when you stop paying attention to diet and exercise. Sure, as we get older we get more efficient inside and out. Look at a little kid run down the sidewalk, with their legs and arms all over the place. I got really good at not fidgeting when I got older and burned even less calories! Other things didn't work as well, either, and sitting at a desk wasn't very helpful either.

In the last 5 years, I started eating and exercising more and started noticing the difference. I came across paleo/primal in my search to prevent diseases, and started lifting heavier for shorter periods, eating cleaner and adding in some sprints and noticed even greater change. I have to say that I turned the clock back about 10 years... so far. I probably will never be 19 in physical age anymore, but the 19 year old punk rocker in my is still flipping the bird at conventional notions of how to do things.

The only and best way to prevent aging is to refuse aging, mentally and physically. We're all going to die one day, so suck it up and show everyone else how to live right. Otherwise, get in line with the other whiners who are too afraid to buck authority and work your ass off on the right things in life.

Quit complaining and man up.



on April 14, 2013
at 06:54 PM

I have heard there is a decline in metabolism by the time you hit 30. I've also ran into many people that claim they've been in the best shape of their lives in their 60's. It's about working smarter and knowing what you have to work with (and what your goals are).

I was in the best shape of my life at 19 (I'm 34 now); however, I'm in far better shape now than I was in my mid 20's (and I work out much less). I just understand what I respond better to.

For instance; I'm not a marathon runner nor I never will be. I function better doing short sprints and get far better benefit doing those. I love paddling (outrigger and dragonboat), which does provide a very intense full body workout for a good 60-90 minutes. I find my body functions and responds very well to that.

I basically stick to the things that work for me, and I suspect these people in their 60's claiming to be in the best shape of their lives are doing the same thing!

If you were to take a 19yr old though, and they were able to stick to what works for them and do the same thing to them when their 60, you'll probably find they would be in better shape at 19.

The problem is with some 19yr olds though (me included at the time) is their filled with piss and vinegar and can assume they can do anything.. despite how bad it might be treating their body.


on April 15, 2013
at 01:04 AM

Physically, in sports such as baseball or basketball, performance peaks at age 27, and age 30 is undoubtedly slightly past the crest. Keep in mind these are population statistics; one's personal peak is idiosyncratic to genes and upbringing.

IQ-wise, females peak at age 18, males at age 25. Chess is a game I follow. Performance in chess peaks at age 27. Performance lags IQ biological peak by two years presumably due to learning effects. The rate of decline in chess is idiosyncratic to the person, although the population trajectory appears to match the trajectory of IQ decline. One also anecdotally hears that mathematicians and physicists typically do their best work before the age of 30.

In terms of physical beauty, females seem to reach their peak around age 16 or 17. Their physical attractiveness tracks their fertility, and that trajectory is well known. The less said on that the better, unless one is trolling to set the Paleohacks record for downvotes.

Of course, Bill Bailey or anyone could eff themselves up and induce artificial decline at any age. Have a looksie at Lindsey Lohan. She's what, only age 24? and looks like chit. Kate Moss, simiarly. Was irremediably horrid-looking by age 30 due to hard living (including drugs & alcohol).

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