What is the Marginal Decade and Longevity: Insights from Dr. Peter Attia

Peter Attia on Longevity and the Marginal Decade

The concept of longevity is not just about living longer, but also about living better. Dr. Peter Attia, a renowned longevity and healthspan expert, introduces a fascinating concept in this regard: the "marginal decade". This concept is a key part of his approach to longevity and can provide valuable insights for anyone interested in improving their healthspan. Let's delve into what the marginal decade is and how it relates to longevity.

Understanding the Marginal Decade

The "marginal decade" refers to the last decade of your life. Dr. Attia explains, "Marginal decade is the last decade of your life so everyone will have a marginal decade most people certainly don't know the day they enter it sometimes you know when you're in it you know if you're especially if you're nearing the end of it a person probably has a sense of that appreciation."

The marginal decade is often a period of poor life quality for many people, with physical health and cognitive function typically declining significantly. Dr. Attia notes that many people in their marginal decade tend to withdraw from life due to these health issues.

Video explaining what the marginal decade is by Dr Peter Attia.

The Importance of the Marginal Decade

The concept of the marginal decade is important because it encourages us to think about what we want our last decade of life to look like. Dr. Attia suggests that if we plan to have a remarkable marginal decade, it means that all the decades that came before it also had to be pretty remarkable. He uses the analogy of an archer to explain this concept: "If you really want to be proficient at 50 yards with a bow and arrow, practice at a hundred and you'll be amazed at how simple 50 becomes and 60 and 70 and 80. It's a very non-linear relationship in terms of accuracy with a bow and arrow."

The Centenarian Decathlon

Dr. Attia introduces another concept related to the marginal decade: the "centenarian decathlon". This concept involves setting specific goals or events that you want to be able to do in your marginal decade. These events can be activities of daily living or specific recreational activities. The more specifically you train for these events, the more directed your training will be.

Dr. Attia shares some examples of events in his own centenarian decathlon, including picking up a 30-pound child from a squatted position, getting up off the floor with one point of support, placing a 30-pound suitcase overhead, dead hanging for 30 seconds, and walking up and down stairs with feet pointed perfectly forward. He emphasizes that these are his personal goals and everyone will have different events in their own centenarian decathlon.

Spotify podcast from Petter Attia expaining the cenarian Decathlon and training methods.

The Four Pillars of Exercise and Longevity

According to Dr. Attia, there are four key pillars of exercise that are important for longevity and healthspan:

Aerobic Efficiency

This refers to zone 2 cardio which develops the body's ability to efficiently burn fat. Low-intensity cardio for longer durations trains this system.

Peak Aerobic Output

Also known as VO2 max, this pillar focuses on high-intensity interval training to boost maximal oxygen utilization. This expands cardio capacity.


Strength training is vital for maintaining muscle mass, bone density, and physical function as we age. Compound lifts, bodyweight exercises, and targeted moves can build strength.


Stability encompasses balance, mobility, and coordination. Exercises like Pilates, yoga, and Tai Chi can improve stability and prevent falls.

A comprehensive exercise program will incorporate some training in each of these four pillars.

Dr. Attia's Centenarian Decathlon List

As part of his marginal decade concept, Dr. Attia created his own "centenarian decathlon" list of fitness activities and goals to specifically train for. These include:

  • Picking up a 30-pound child from a squatted position
  • Getting up off the floor with one point of support
  • Placing a 30-pound suitcase overhead
  • Dead hanging for 30 seconds
  • Farmer walk for one minute with 25% of body weight in each hand
  • Walking lunges for 50 continuous steps
  • Standing overhead press with half body weight
  • Single leg Romanian deadlift with 15% body weight

Dr. Attia trains for these activities so he can confidently achieve them in his marginal decade. Everyone can create their own list based on individual fitness goals and priorities for their last decade of life.

What does Peter Attia mean by the "marginal decade" for longevity?

Attia refers to ages 30-40 as the marginal decade where lifestyle choices determine longevity outcomes more than any other period. Choices in these years compound.

Why does Peter Attia emphasize the importance of the marginal decade?

Attia argues that the marginal decade is when many chronic diseases begin developing silently before diagnosis. Lifestyle changes in these years can alter disease progression.

What lifestyle factors does Peter Attia focus on during the marginal decade?

Attia spotlights nutrition, exercise, stress management, sleep, and optimizing hormones as key lifestyle factors that impact longevity during the marginal decade.

How can choices made in the marginal decade impact lifespan?

Attia explains that lifestyle choices in the marginal decade influence epigenetic expression, delaying or accelerating aging processes and disease development that define lifespan.

What does Peter Attia say about reversing poor lifestyle choices after the marginal decade?

While still beneficial, Attia notes it becomes progressively more difficult to offset the negative compounding effects of poor lifestyle choices after the marginal decade passes.

Why does Peter Attia caution against overconfidence in longevity during the 30s?

Attia warns that most 30-somethings feel invincible but don't realize how lifestyle choices in their 30s silently dictate later life chronic disease risks.

About the author
Thomas Riley

Thomas Riley

Thomas, a biohacker with a BSc (Hons) from Teesside University, shares insights passion and expertise on longevity, nootropics, and biohacking, catering to all levels of interest.


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