Fountain of Youth? Try 'Couzens Immortality Quotient'

'Outside' takes a look at the importance of continuing to exercise as we age
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 30, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
Fountain of Youth? Try 'Couzens Immortality Quotient'
   (Getty / shironosov)

Older athletes, especially runners, worried about their ability to stay fit might want to keep in mind what Alex Hutchinson of Outside magazine dubs the Couzens Immortality Quotient. It's based on an observation made by triathlon coach Alan Cummings: "All else being equal, the amount of aerobic fitness his athletes lost by getting a year older was almost identical to the amount they gained by adding an hour per month of training time," writes Hutchinson. Translating that into the real world means that people who don't want to "lose" fitness in a given year should squeeze in an extra 15 minutes of running per week. That can eventually become unwieldy, given that the extra time would add up to 2.5 hours a week after a decade. Still, the overall premise makes sense and can be applied in more practical ways, Hutchinson suggests.

He digs into research on the issue, including this study out of the University of Lausanne that reached a Cummings-esque conclusion—"only about half of the fitness losses suffered by endurance athletes as they get older are attributable to the passage of time. The other half can be chalked up to reduced training." It doesn't have to be intense training: That study and others point to "lots of low-intensity exercise" as the key to long-term fitness, writes Hutchinson. The point is to keep moving. "You don’t train less because you’re getting old; you get old, to a surprising extent, because skipping that long Sunday run with your pals becomes a habit instead of a rare exception," he concludes. "Don’t do it." Read the full essay, which delves into VO2 max, a measure of aerobic fitness that declines as we age, but less so for those who keep fit. (More fitness stories.)

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