Case Studies in Physiology: Maximal oxygen consumption and performance in a centenarian cyclist

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Mar 1;122(3):430-434. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00569.2016. Epub 2016 Dec 29.


The purpose of this study was to examine the physiological characteristics of an elite centenarian cyclist who, at 101 yr old, established the 1-h cycling record for individuals ≥100 yr old (24.25 km) and to determine the physiological factors associated with his performance improvement 2 yr later at 103 yr old (26.92 km; +11%). Before each record, he performed an incremental test on a cycling ergometer. For 2 yr, he trained 5,000 km/yr with a polarized training that involved cycling 80% of mileage at "light" rate of perceived exertion (RPE) ≤12 and 20% at "hard" RPE ≥15 at a cadence between 50 and 70 rpm. His body weight and lean body mass did not change, while his maximal oxygen consumption (V̇o2max) increased (31-35 ml·kg-1·min-1; +13%). Peak power output increased from 90 to 125 W (+39%), mainly because of increasing the maximal pedaling frequency (69-90 rpm; +30%). Maximal heart rate did not change (134-137 beats/min) in contrast to the maximal ventilation (57-70 l/min, +23%), increasing with both the respiratory frequency (38-41 cycles/min; +8%) and the tidal volume (1.5-1.7 liters; +13%). Respiratory exchange ratio increased (1.03-1.14) to the same extent as tolerance to V̇co2 In conclusion, it is possible to increase performance and V̇o2max with polarized training focusing on a high pedaling cadence even after turning 100 yr old.NEW & NOTEWORTHY This study shows, for the first time, that maximal oxygen consumption (+13%) and performance (+11%) can still be increased between 101 and 103 yr old with 2 yr of training and that a centenarian is able, at 103 yr old, to cover 26.9 km/h in 1 h.

Keywords: V̇o2max; aging; centenarian; cycling; pedaling cadence.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Athletic Performance / psychology*
  • Bicycling / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*