Sport, Ageing & Health Research

Natural progression of aging in sport

Michael Spedding has been a successful athlete all his life, with 117,000 kms run and >50 years of competition. His brother, Charles, held the English marathon record, 2h 08’33’, for >30 years. Age-related severity is a striking aspect of COVID-19, and Spiegelhalter has put this into context showing the exponential relationship with age and frailty.   With our partners at INSEP, The French sports science group, we collated the age-related decline in human performance in multiple sports and activities using age-related world-best performances, to find astonishingly-precise systematic declines described by a single exponential, accounting up to 99% of total variance. Figure 1A shows running speed at 5000m in m/sec for the world records of men and women for each age, and Figure 1B as a percentage of world best speed for men and women: the decline for men and women is an almost exact overlay and fits the single exponential previously described Performance at 5000m is well correlated to VO2max, and inversely related to obesity, a risk factor for COVID-19.

Similarly, race-horses, greyhounds, mice, even C. Elegans, show a similar age-related decline. It is a key aspect of life, representing entropy and the cumulative aspects on ageing. Human beings seem to be optimized metabolically, as they have extended lifespans compared to nearly all other animals. The precision of decline among the best human athletes shows that it may be difficult to further improve life expectancy and there has been no real progress in performance over the last decades.  As the decline describes world-records, different athletes contribute to the data, so it is unclear whether individuals show the same precise decline, but the decline in performance of one of the authors at 5000m (MS, who has competed in athletics for 60 years at ~15% of world best), fits the same exponential, despite his best efforts. Ageing is just entropy – with almost absolute precision when filtered for the very best human performance – this has immense implications for ageing-related diseases, – and susceptibility to COVID-19 – and our company is surfing on the implications, to improve health care.

Figure 1A: Average speed for age-related World Records (WR) at 5000m for men, women, and for M Spedding (MS) expressed in meters/sec.

Figure 1B: Speed expressed as a percentage of world absolute best performance for men and women, and for M Spedding as percentage of personal best. Note the almost exact superimposition of curves. Figure 1B also shows the age-dependency of mortality for COVID-19 in the USA, and in Italy. The age-dependency for deaths from influenza and pneumonia in the USA in 2018 (Flu) are also shown.

Data are from the ARRS database ( and M Spedding race records, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (   

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