Effect of age and training on aerobic capacity and body composition of master athletes

J Appl Physiol (1985). 1987 Feb;62(2):725-31. doi: 10.1152/jappl.1987.62.2.725.


Maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and body composition have been shown to deteriorate with age. How much of the decline is attributable to aging and how much is affected by reduced physical activity is not known. The purpose of this investigation was to determine the aerobic capacity and body composition of 24 master track athletes and to evaluate the relationship to age and maintenance of training over a 10-yr period. The subjects (50-82 yr of age) were retested after a 10.1-yr follow-up (T2). All continued their aerobic training, but only 11 were still highly competitive (COMP) and continued to train at the same intensity. The other 13 athletes studied became noncompetitive (post-COMP) and reduced their training intensity. The results showed the COMP group to maintain its VO2max and maximum O2 pulse while the post-COMP group showed a significant decline (54.2-53.3 vs. 52.5-45.9 ml X kg-1 X min-1; 20.7-20.8 vs. 22.4-20.0 ml/beat from test one (T1) to T2 for the COMP vs. post-COMP groups, respectively). Maximum heart rate declined 7 beats/min for both groups. Body composition showed no difference between groups from T1 to T2. For both groups body weight declined slightly (70.0-68.9 kg), percent fat increased significantly (13.1-15.1%), and fat-free weight decreased significantly (61.0-59.0 kg). Thus, when training was maintained, aerobic capacity remained unchanged over the follow-up period. Body composition changed for both groups and may have been related to aging and/or the type of training performed.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging*
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Composition*
  • Heart Rate
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Physical Education and Training*
  • Rest
  • Spirometry
  • Sports*