Aerobic and functional capacities in a selected active population of European octogenarians

Int J Sports Med. 2005 Mar;26(2):128-33. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-817860.


Master athletes are often considered to represent the ideal rate of decline of aerobic function; however, most of the studies interested in active elderly people are often limited to people younger than 75. We aimed to determine the physiological adaptations and aerobic fitness in a selected European population of active octogenarians during maximal and submaximal exercise tests. Aerobic capacity was measured during maximal incremental tests on treadmill (TR) and cycle-ergometer (CE) and functional capacity during a 6-minute walk test (6-MWT) in 17 subjects aged 81.2 +/- 0.8 years. Pulmonary gas exchange and heart rate (HR) were continuously measured during the different exercise tests. Maximal oxygen consumption (V.O (2max)) on TR and CE was significantly higher than predicted values (TR: 28.7 +/- 1.2 vs. 17 +/- 0.5 ml . kg (-1) . min (-1); CE: 23 +/- 1.2 vs. 16 +/- 0.6 ml . kg (-1) . min (-1) for measured and predicted values respectively). V.O (2max) and HR (max), as well as V.O (2) and HR at the ventilatory threshold (V.O (2)T (V.E) and HR T (V.E)) were significantly higher on TR than on CE (HR (max): 144 +/- 4 vs. 138 +/- 4 bpm; V.O (2)T (V.E): 22.5 +/- 0.8 vs. 17.7 +/- 0.9 ml . kg (-1) . min (-1) for TR and CE respectively). V.O (2)T (V.E) and HR T (V.E) on TR were equivalent to V.O (2) and HR measured during the 6-MWT. HR T (V.E) on TR and mean HR during the 6-MWT were strongly correlated (R = 0.82, p < 0.01). Maintenance of regular physical activity provides high aerobic fitness, in octogenarians, as was shown by the higher values of our subjects in comparison to predicted values. Moreover, the close relation between the intensity developed at T (V.E) on TR and 6-MWT could support the idea that a walk test is a submaximal test performed at high intensity that could provide a basis for exercise prescription in an individualized manner in active elderly people.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Europe
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Sports / physiology
  • Walking / physiology