Aerobic fitness in a population of independently living men and women aged 55-86 years

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Dec;31(12):1813-20. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199912000-00018.


Purpose: The purpose was to examine, for a subset of a large random survey of men and women, the age-related changes in the parameters of aerobic function, maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), and ventilatory threshold (T(VE)).

Methods: A "ramp-like" treadmill protocol was designed to measure VO2max and T(VE) on a total of 298 subjects (152 men and 146 women), aged 55-86 yr.

Results: Data for VO2max (and HRmax) and T(VE) by 5-yr age groups provide "normative" results. Age-related declines in VO2max and T(VE) were fit by a linear model; however, age explained at most 37% of the variance across ages 55-86 yr. In this restricted age range, the rate of decline in VO2max, in both men (-0.034 L x min(-1) x yr(-1)) and women (-0.019 L x min(-1) x yr(-1)), was similar to that of previous reports for linear regression with age. Men, but not women, showed a decrease in body mass across age. Thus, the decline in VO2max expressed relative to body mass was similar in men (0.31 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1) x yr(-1)) and women (0.25); however, across this older age the decline is slower than noted for younger groups. The minimum level of aerobic power compatible with an independent life at age 85 yr was approximately 18 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1) in men and 15 mL x kg(-1) x min(-1) in women. Regression analysis showed HRmax across this age span is not well predicted by age. T(VE) across age declined at about one-half the rate of the VO2max, and in older age was approximately 85% of the VO2max.

Conclusion: The study provides "normative" cardiorespiratory function data of a random sample of independently living men and women aged 55-86 yr.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*