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News Link • Health and Physical Fitness

For Athletes’ Peak Performance, Age Is Everything

• Erik Malinowski via

Athletic performance obviously decreases as people get older and their bodies wear down physically, but new data compiled by French researchers sheds new light on exactly when these declines might start showing up, at least in some sporting disciplines.

The careers of more than 1,150 swimmers and track-and-field athletes, as well as the accomplishments of nearly a hundred chess grandmasters, were scrutinized based on the event they were participating in, as well as their age and how old they were when they established any world records. In all, more than 11,200 performances among these athletes made it into the data set, and the results confirm that there reaches an age — a physiological tipping point, if you will — when athletes start to experience an irreversible downturn in their abilities.

Generally speaking, athletes start to see physical declines at age 26, give or take. (This would seem in line with the long-standing notion in baseball that players tend to hit their peak anywhere from ages 27 to 30.) For swimmers, the news is more sobering, as the mean peak age is 21. For chess grandmasters, participating in an activity that relies more than mental acuity and sharpness rather than brute, acquired physicality, the peak age is closer to 31.4.

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