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Staying young

Still racing at 106

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Robert Marchand, who has died aged 109, was told as a young man that at 5ft tall, he lacked the stature to be a competitive cyclist. The Frenchman had the last laugh, says the Telegraph – aged 102, he set the 100km time record and the hour distance record for the over-100s.

After being imprisoned by the Nazis during the Second World War for refusing to teach gymnastics to the children of collaborators, Marchand moved to Venezuela, then Canada. He returned to France in 1960 and got back on his bike when he was 67. In 1992 he rode from Paris to Moscow, and at 89 he took part in a Bordeaux-Paris race, covering 600km in 36 hours. As he kept racing past his 100th year, world cycling’s governing body had to create new age categories for him – although, when he turned 106, doctors advised him against any more record-hunting. He eventually retired from outdoor cycling due to deafness, but was still logging 20 minutes daily on his exercise bike until the week before his death.

Marchand put his fitness and longevity down to plenty of fruit and veg, not too much coffee and no cigarettes. He went to bed at 9pm, woke up at 6 am and didn’t watch much TV – except for the Tour de France. In 2017, aged 105, he covered 14 miles in an hour in a velodrome. During a photoshoot the next day, he remarked: “At my age, you should never stop. If you stop, you’re screwed.”

🎾 Tennis players also tend to live long lives, says Nicholas Hellen in The Sunday Times. A recent Danish study found that amateur male tennis players typically live nearly a decade longer than sedentary men. A separate study confirms that the benefits of tennis go right to the top: of the 45 players who have appeared in Wimbledon men’s finals since 1960, only two have died. The men’s singles winners in 1950 and 1953, both 97, are also still with us.

Have you got the “happy gene”?

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What is the secret of happiness, asks Alice Hall in The Daily Telegraph. We should “lower our expectations”, according to a recent UCL study. It examined 18,420 people playing a mobile app, taking MRI scans of their brains. Their happiness “depended not on how well they were doing, but on whether they were doing better than they expected”.

Other lifestyle factors also come into play. British people need an annual salary of £33,864 to be happy, says financial-services company Raisin UK. Researchers at Cambridge have found that the happiest people work “micro-jobs”: one or two days a week. Living within a mile of a happy friend increases your chances of happiness by 25%, according to a Harvard study. Prioritising life experiences over possessions is another good trick. Yet happiness can still boil down to luck. Those lucky enough to have the “happy gene”, 5-HTTLPR, report higher life satisfaction, while those with the GG genotype have happier marriages.

Bathe your way to better fitness 

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“If soaking in the tub sounds more appealing than running a lap of the park, researchers have good news,” says Kat Lay in The Times. Hot baths and saunas “mimic many of the health benefits of exercise”. A study from Coventry University suggests they raise core body temperature and improve blood flow, which can boost fitness levels, lower blood pressure, tighten blood-sugar control in diabetics and reduce inflammation. All this is good news for people who hate exercise, though sadly hot baths “do not seem to increase muscle mass or take off weight”.