Irishman Richard Morgan discovered his passion for the game in his seventies. Now, at 93, he has the fitness of a 30- to 40-year-old.
The essentials in a nutshell
- Irishman Richard Morgan is a sports fan.
- At 93, he has the physique of a healthy 30- to 40-year-old.
- He has already won the World Indoor Rowing Championships four times.
Richard Morgan is a notable retiree. At 93, the Irishman has the fitness of a healthy 30- or 40-year-old man. He is a four-time world indoor rowing champion and his career offers valuable lessons about aging.
Morgan wasn't always so fit. As the Washington Post reports, he only started exercising regularly in his 70s. Although he started late, he has now rowed nearly ten times as far around the world.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology examined Morgan's training, nutrition and physiology in more detail. The results suggest that Morgan is a role model for healthy aging in many ways. A prototype pensioner has the heart, muscles and lungs of a person half his age.
Garden house training
Despite his impressive fitness, Morgan is pretty ordinary in other areas: the former baker with creaky knees mainly trains in his garden shed.
The researchers were particularly interested in finding out what Morgan's late training had done to his aging body. “If we want to understand aging, we need to look at very active older people,” said one of the study's authors.
Many questions about the biology of aging remain unanswered. For example, is the weight loss and muscle loss that usually occurs with aging normal and inevitable? Or at least partially due to lack of exercise.
80 percent muscle
The researchers invited Morgan to a lab at the University of Limerick in Ireland. They measured his height, weight, body composition and collected information about his diet. According to the Washington Post, they checked his metabolism and his heart and lung function.
He was then asked to get on a rowing machine and complete a 2,000m timed run. Meanwhile, they monitored his heart, lungs and muscles.
Do you play sports regularly?
“It was one of the most inspiring days I've ever spent in the lab,” says Philip Jackman of the University of Limerick. Morgan proved a force: his 75 kilograms was about 80 percent muscle and 15 percent fat, a body composition considered healthy for a younger man for decades.
The joy of the game
Morgan may have some genetic advantage, scientists note. Rowing talent runs in his family.
“There's a certain joy in winning the World Cup,” Morgan said of his grandson with almost comical modesty. “I started from scratch, and I suddenly realized there was a lot of joy in that.”
“Wannabe pop culture fanatic. Zombie advocate. Entrepreneur. Internet evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Typical travel buff.”