The Marginal Decade: The last 10 years of Your Life

The ‘Marginal Decade’ is a term coined by Dr. Peter Attia in his new book called ‘Outlive’. It refers to the last decade of your life. The funny thing about this term is nobody actually knows when their last decade is. For some of us, we could be in our marginal decade right now.

For most people, unfortunately, this is really a period of poor life quality, Physical health has usually declined significantly, Cognitive health potentially has declined as well. At Sage, we keep this concept in mind when we take all our clients through our service and process. We focus on Longevity, and Quality of life.

If fate shined light upon you and you didn’t die prematurely of any unforeseen accident or illness; and you live up to 9 centuries old, how would you want to feel those last 10 years of your life? Dr. Peter Attia spent ample time Studying Centenarians, (people who lived past 100 years of age) and what made them live so long and with such quality. He then formulated a how to manual on how to improve your longevity and quality of life.

These are some physical tasks to aim to be ablate still achieve as you enter your marginal decade:

  1. Hike 1.5 miles on a hilly trail.
  2. Get up off the floor under your own power, using a maximum of one arm for support.
  3. Pick up a young child from the floor. 
  4. Carry two 5-pound bags of groceries for five blocks.
  5. Lift a 20-pound suitcase into the overhead compartment of a plane.
  6. Balance on one leg for 30 seconds, eyes open. (Bonus points: eyes closed, 15 seconds.)
  7. Have sex.
  8. Climb four flights of stairs in three minutes.
  9. Open a jar.
  10. Do 30 consecutive jump-rope skips.

there is an imminent amount of physical and cognitive decline as you continue to age, so to be able to perform the above tasks you must create a high threshold of fitness NOW, and maintain and work towards it as you age:

Let’s do a little math. Let’s say the kid weighs 25 or 30 pounds. That’s basically the same as doing a squat while holding a 30-pound dumbbell in front of you (i.e., a goblet squat). Can you do that now, at age 40? Most likely. But now let’s look into the future. Over the next 30 or 40 years, your muscle strength will decline by about 8 to 17 percent per decade—accelerating as time goes on. So if you want to pick up that 30-pound grandkid or great-grandkid when you’re 80, you’re going to have to be able to lift 50 to 55 pounds now. Without hurting yourself. Can you do that?

I press the issue. You also want to be able to hike on a hilly trail? To do that comfortably requires a VO2 max of roughly 30 ml/kg/min. Let’s take a look at the results of your latest VO2 max test—and guess what, you only scored a 30. You’re average for your age, but I’m afraid that’s not good enough, because your VO2 max is also going to decline. So you can pull it off now, but you likely won’t be able to do it when you’re older.

On it goes. To lift a 20-pound suitcase overhead when you are older means lifting 40 or 50 pounds now. To be able to climb four flights of stairs in your 80s means you should be able to pretty much sprint up those same stairs today. In every case, you need to be doing much more now, to armor yourself against the natural and precipitous decline in strength and aerobic capacity that you will undergo as you age. 

Eventually, my patients get it. Together, we come up with a list of 10 or 15 events in their personal Centenarian Decathlon, representing their goals for their later decades. This then determines how they should be training. In the end, most people’s Centenarian Decathlons will probably overlap to a degree. Someone who enjoys stand-up paddleboarding, for example, would perhaps choose “events” focused around building core and cross-body strength. But she will likely be training the same muscle groups as I am doing for archery, and maintaining a similar degree of stamina and balance.

The Centenarian Decathlon is ambitious, no question. A 90-year-old who is even able to board a plane under her own power, let alone hoist a carry-on bag, is doing extremely well. But there is a method to the madness. These individual tasks are not out of reach. There are octogenarians, nonagenarians, and even centenarians right now who are running marathons, racing bicycles, lifting weights, flying airplanes, jumping out of airplanes, skiing the Rocky Mountains, competing in actual decathlons, and doing all sorts of other amazing things. So all these events are within the realm of possibility.

One purpose of the Centenarian Decathlon, in fact, is to help us redefine what is possible in our later years and wipe away the default assumption that most people will be weak and incapable at that point in their lives. We need to abolish that decrepit stereotype and create a new narrative—perhaps modeled after the old-school fitness guru Jack LaLanne, who kept doing his usual rigorous daily workout right up until his death at age 96. Unlike most very long-lived individuals, he didn’t just get there by accident or luck. He built and maintained a high level of fitness throughout his life, beginning in the 1930s, when very few people exercised regularly and “fitness centers” did not yet exist. As he got older, he set out very deliberately to defy the stereotype of aging as a period of misery and decline. He did the work, and he succeeded, giving us a glimpse of what an older person is truly capable of achieving.

If you want to focus on longevity and quality of life, reach out to us.

All the best,

Sage Personal Training



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