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How This 93-Year-Old Rowing Champion Has a Body of a 30 Year Old Man

At the impressive age of 93, Richard Morgan isn’t just passing the years; he’s setting world records in them.

This Irishman, a four-time world champion in indoor rowing, boasts the aerobic engine of a healthy person in their 30s or 40s and a body-fat percentage that would make a professional athlete envious.

More than just a remarkable athlete, Morgan is the subject of a new case study in the Journal of Applied Physiology, which delves into his training, diet, and physiology, offering insights into the art of aging gracefully and healthily.

A late start

Unlike the typical elite athlete, Morgan’s journey into the world of sports began unusually late. A former baker and battery maker with a history of ordinary, everyday aches and pains, he didn’t embark on a regular exercise regimen until his 70s.

Today, he trains mostly in his backyard shed, a humble space for a man who has virtually rowed almost 10 times around the globe and claimed four world championships as reported by The Washington Post.

The study of Morgan’s late-life exercise regimen provides valuable insights into how physical activity can influence the aging process.

Interestingly, Morgan’s foray into the world of rowing started at age 73. After attending a rowing practice with his grandson, a competitive collegiate rower, he was invited by the coach to try out a rowing machine.

“He never looked back,” recounts his other grandson, Lorcan Daly, an assistant lecturer in exercise science.

What the study gathered about Morgan

At 92, Morgan was invited to the physiology lab at the University of Limerick in Ireland for an in-depth study. The tests measured his height, weight, body composition, and details about his diet, metabolism, and heart and lung function.

During a simulated 2,000-meter time trial, Morgan’s heart rate peaked at an astonishing 153 beats per minute, a rate more typical of someone decades younger and a testament to his exceptional cardiovascular health.

Morgan’s fitness routine

Morgan’s fitness routine is both straightforward and effective. He rows approximately 30 kilometers weekly, averaging around 40 minutes a day.

His workouts are a mix of easy, moderate, and intense training.

Additionally, he weight-trains two or three times a week and follows a high-protein diet, exceeding the usual dietary recommendation for someone of his weight.

The Washington Post outlines Richard Morgan’s straightforward approach to fitness and nutrition:

  • Training Variety: Morgan dedicates 70% of his workout regimen to less strenuous activities. The next 20% ramps up in difficulty, though still manageable, while the remaining 10% pushes the limits with high-intensity efforts.
  • Regular Routine: Morgan commits to rowing about 18.5 miles daily, which takes him around 40 minutes.
  • Protein-Rich Diet: He consumes a significant amount of protein daily, surpassing the standard advice of 60 grams for an individual of his body weight.

Scott Trappe, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Indiana, finds Morgan’s case study illuminating, especially regarding exercise adaptation across the lifespan.

“The evidence is pretty clear that the human body maintains the ability to adapt to exercise at any age,” he notes.

Philip Jakeman, a professor of healthy aging, physical performance, and nutrition at the University of Limerick and the study’s senior author, suggests that Morgan’s fitness and physical power at 93 indicate that significant muscle and aerobic capacity loss isn’t a mandatory aspect of growing older.

Despite his outstanding fitness, Morgan’s race performances have slowed over the years, a reminder that exercise, while beneficial, doesn’t stop the aging process entirely. It does, however, appear to slow down the physical decline.

For Morgan, the rewards of his fitness journey extend beyond the physical. “There is a certain pleasure in achieving a world championship,” he shares with almost comic humility. Starting from nowhere, he realized the immense pleasure and satisfaction derived from rowing and competing.

Richard Morgan’s story is not just about breaking records or defying age; it’s about the joy of discovery and the untapped potential that lies within us, no matter our age. His example serves as a beacon, illuminating the possibilities of aging not just gracefully, but powerfully.

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