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The Truth About Ageing Athletes

The Truth About Ageing Athletes

At what age should performance decline?

What will be our physical capacities in our 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 100’s and beyond..??

See you probably think I’ve lost the plot here?

Chances are you don’t know anyone over 90, even less likely over 100, and if you did you wouldn’t expect any physical performance from them. I know I don’t.

Most modern philosophy around muscle and performance focusses on the here and now. IIFYM (if it fits your macros) and similar approaches can help you be lean, but will you be getting your hip replaced before 50?

The truth is the methods of living people were implementing 400-100 years ago were resulting centenarians with high function.

“Dead Doctor’s Don’t Lie” by Dr Joel Wallach is a resource that Kelly Slater (one of the most evergreen athletes of the modern era) sites as being a key influence on him in his podcast with Shannon Brenton. Dr Wallach’s research first into animal care then into the diet of high function centenarians is still ignored in schools and medical education.

Researchers like Wallach, Pottenger and Dr Weston A Price dedicated decades of their lives to learning how to optimise human development and support high functioning humans into their later years.

Professional Athletes?

The concept of having a period of intense physical activity in life and then moving onto other things is one that seems crazy to me. Competitive sport is still a concept I wrestle with despite being involved with them all my life. Whether we should “compete or create” is a discussion for another time but the attitude of making it to 30, 35 or 40 and then stopping your physical development is a sad state. We’re here to develop ourselves. What we have as a vehicle is the physical body.

I’m excited for the days not far from now where athletes embrace a generalist reconditioning and restoration of their bodies after their time of specialisation in competitive sports based in war simulation.

What will happen to a retired athlete or average joe sitting in his “Lazy Boy” eating doughnuts and drinking Duff beer?

Most people under 50 don’t want to think about getting old.

The fact is, most of these people ignoring ageing are already roaring down the highway of ageing and accelerating fast!

To index wellness and/or ageing, experts can use data from:

  • Hormones
  • Vitamins and minerals
  • Systemic enzymes
  • Gut bacteria
  • Blood sugar control
  • And especially …. Movement

These measures reveal people in pre-teens, teens, 20’s and 30’s with the bio-profiles of 70-90 year olds of the past.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Two-thirds of the population are overweight or obese, of those that aren’t overweight or obese most are pre-diabetic or skinny fat where they have such low muscle mass that their tissue ratios are similar to many obese!

Accelerated ageing and the decreasing healthspan is a reality that we can all see close to home with family or local community.

I believe we need new targets to create a new “normal.”


So what can we aim for as we age?

Louie Zamperini lived until 97, he was climbing trees with a chainsaw in his 90’s.

Jack Lalanne was still training for 90 minutes every morning and creating health and fitness content for the world in his 90’s. Jack performed lots of amazing simple and complex strength and endurance feats including the human flag with 35kg tied to his waist!

George Hackenschmidt, a legend in strength and wrestling lived to 89 and was still jumping over chairs in his 70’s.

Yuichiro Miura scaled Mount Everest at 83, he said “You need a target – however big or small – and to build your health and fitness towards it.”

I love this from an 83 year old world changer.




These guys are a massive source of inspiration. You’re never too old to start and the worse you are the faster your rate of improvement will be!

If this makes sense take action. Think long term about how you’re spending days. Make it a challenge and a quest to generate robust health by following the wisdom of the ages learning from those who are doing what you would love to be doing. You might just find that you can build and maintain high function long beyond the horrifying standards of today “normal” age decline.

About Keegan Smith

Keegan Smith (Coach KEEGAN), founder of RealMOVEMENT Project and author of Performance Coach Success Blueprint, is a performance coach educator who's worked with Premiership winning Sydney Roosters.

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