Six Sports With Greatest Decline From Age

We all believe that sprinting and jumping sports decline the most with age, and endurance suffers least. A recent study shows we are simply not right about that. Of these six, guess which endeavor has the biggest decrease in performance with age.

1. Athletics (Track and Field)
2. Swimming
3. Rowing
4. Cycling
5. Triathlon
6. Weightlifting

Without further ado, a recent Australian study says: Weightlifting had the fastest and greatest decrease in performance ( The full study is “Aging performance for masters records in Athletics, Swimming, Rowing, Cycling, Triathlon, and Weightlifting” (Baker AB, Tang YQ) Department of Anesthesia, University of Sydney at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

The study states:
Record performances for Masters sporting events for swimming, cycling, triathlon, rowing, and weightlifting were analyzed and then compared with the authors’ previously published results for Masters running, walking, and jumping sports events. Records were normalized using the 30s age records as a baseline, and studied through the various age ranges to the 90s.

All sports declined with increasing age, with rowing showing the least deterioration. Performances in running, swimming, and walking were reasonably well maintained, followed by greater decline with age for cycling, triathlon, and jumping events. Weightlifting showed the fastest and greatest decline with increasing age. Women show slightly faster rates of performance decline than men.

All these results show no greater decline with age for endurance events over the sprint events. While there are clearly physiological differences for performance deterioration other explanations such as training differences, smaller competitive bases and smaller numbers participating were not eliminated or otherwise compensated for by the methodology of the study.

In other words, keep it up. We suspect the biggest factor in performance deterioration is simply that so many people stop training as they get older.