A longitudinal assessment of change in VO2max and maximal heart rate in master athletes

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2001 Oct;33(10):1744-50. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200110000-00020.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine the longitudinal change in VO2max and HRmax in male and female master endurance runners and to compare these changes based upon gender, age, and change in training volume.

Methods: Eighty-six male (53.9 +/- 1.1 yr) and 49 female (49.1 +/- 1.2 yr) master endurance runners were tested an average of 8.5 yr apart. Subjects were grouped by age at first visit, change in VO2max, and change in training volume. Measurements included body composition by hydrostatic weighing, maximal exercise testing on a treadmill, and training history by questionnaire. Data were analyzed by ANOVA and multiple regression.

Results: VO2max and HRmax declined significantly regardless of gender or age group (P < 0.05). The rate of change in VO2max by age group ranged from -1% to -4.6% per year for men and -0.5% to 2.4% per year for women. Men with the greatest loss in VO2max had the greatest loss in LBM (-2.8 +/- 0.7 kg), whereas women with the greatest loss in VO2max demonstrated the greatest change in training volume (-24.1 +/- 3.0 km.wk-1). Additionally, women with the greatest loss in VO2max (-9.6 +/- 2.6 mL.kg-1.min-1) did not replace estrogen after menopause independent of age. HRmax change did not differ by VO2max change or training volume change in either gender.

Conclusions: In conclusion, these data suggest that VO2max declines in male and female master athletes at a rate similar to or greater than that expected in sedentary older adults. Additionally, these data suggest that maintenance of LBM and VO2max were associated in men, whereas in women, estrogen replacement and maintenance of training volume were associated with maintained VO2max.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Menopause / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*
  • Running / statistics & numerical data
  • Sex Factors