This Is When Athletes Hit Their Peak
For many of us, the hump comes too soon. We reach the apex of our physical abilities around age thirty, then it's downhill from there.
Elite athletes peak even earlier, according to a new systematic review published in the journal Sports Medicine.
Sian Allen and Will Hopkins, based out of the Sports Performance Research Institute in New Zealand, poured through the scientific literature to ascertain the age at which athletes competing in various sports hit peak competitive performance. Here's what they found:
- For sprints, jumps, and throws, men and women hit their peak around 25 years of age.
- For sprint swimming events, men peak around 24 years and women peak at roughly 22 years. Endurance swimmers peak about a year earlier for both sexes.
- Male and female marathoners are at their best at ages 30 and 29, respectively.
- Male and female triathletes peak at 27-years-old.
- Men and women competing in the Ironman triathlon, which consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride, and a 26.2-mile run, are at their best at the ages of 32 and 34, respectively.
- Professional hockey players perform best between the ages of 27 and 28.
Generally, the authors noticed that athletes competing in "sprint" events requiring explosive power peak much sooner than athletes competing in endurance or game-oriented events, perhaps because older athletes are able to use experience and savvy to their advantage.
Glaringly missing from the review were sports like baseball, soccer, and football. Surprisingly, researchers have yet to gauge the age of peak formance in those sports.
To those reading this article who are "past their prime," don't fret too much. While physiological ability tends to wane after age thirty, cognitive ability has been shown to increase in healthy individuals until at least age sixty. Though you may not be stronger or faster, you're almost certainly wiser.
Source: Sian V. Allen & Will G. Hopkins. Age of Peak Competitive Performance of Elite Athletes: A Systematic Review. 19 June 2015. Sports Medicine. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-015-0354-3