Aerobic capacity reference data in 3816 healthy men and women 20-90 years

PLoS One. 2013 May 15;8(5):e64319. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0064319. Print 2013.


Purpose: To provide a large reference material on aerobic fitness and exercise physiology data in a healthy population of Norwegian men and women aged 20-90 years.

Methods: Maximal and sub maximal levels of VO2, heart rate, oxygen pulse, and rating of perceived exertion (Borg scale: 6-20) were measured in 1929 men and 1881 women during treadmill running.

Results: The highest VO2max and maximal heart rate among men and women were observed in the youngest age group (20-29 years) and was 54.4±8.4 mL·kg(-1)·min(-1) and 43.0±7.7 mL·kg(-1)·min(-1) (sex differences, p<0.001) and 196±10 beats·min(-1) and 194±9 beats·min(-1) (sex differences, p<0.05), respectively, with a subsequent reduction of approximately 3.5 mL·kg(-1)·min(-1) and 6 beats·min(-1) per decade. The highest oxygen pulses were observed in the 3 youngest age groups (20-29 years, 30-39 years, 40-49 years) among men and women; 22.3 mL·beat(-1)±3.6 and 14.7 mL·beat(-1)±2.7 (sex differences, p<0.001), respectively, with no significant difference between these age groups. After the age of 50 we observed an 8% reduction per decade among both sexes. Borg scores appear to give a good estimate of the relative exercise intensity, although observing a slightly different relationship than reported in previous reference material from small populations.

Conclusion: This is the largest European reference material of objectively measured parameters of aerobic fitness and exercise-physiology in healthy men and women aged 20-90 years, forming the basis for an easily accessible, valid and understandable tool for improved training prescription in healthy men and women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Young Adult

Grants and funding

This study was funded by K.G. Jebsen Foundation, The Norwegian Council on Cardiovascular Disease, The Research Council of Norway (funding for Outstanding Young Investigators (UW) and scholarship (HL)), Foundation for Cardiovascular Research at St. Olav’s Hospital, Norwegian State Railways, Roche Norway Incorporated and Valnesfjord Rehabilitation Center. There are no disclosures to report or any conflicts of interest. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.