Cardiovascular changes associated with decreased aerobic capacity and aging in long-distance runners

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Fifty-five male runners aged between 30 to 80 years were examined to determine the relative roles of various cardiovascular parameters which may account for the decrease in maximal oxygen uptake (\(\dot V_{o_{2max} } \)) with aging. All subjects had similar body fat composition and trained for a similar mileage each week. The parameters tested were\(\dot V_{o_{2max} } \), maximal heart rate (HR max), cardiac output (Q), and arteriovenous difference in oxygen concentration (C aC ¯v) O2 during graded, maximal treadmill running. Average body fat and training mileage were roughly 12% and 50 km·week−1, respectively. The average 10-km runtime slowed significantly by 6.0%·decade−1 {[10-km run-time (min)=0.323 x age (years)+24.4] (n=49,r=0.692,p<0.001)}. A strong correlation was found between age and\(\dot V_{o_{2max} } \) {[\(\dot V_{o_{2max} } \) (ml·kg−1·min−1)=- 0.439xage+76.5] (n=55,r=-0.768, p<0.001)}. Thus,\(\dot V_{o_{2max} } \) decreased by 6.9%·decade−1 along with reductions ofHR max (3.2%·decade−1, p<0.001) andQ (5.8%·decade−1, p<0.001), while no significant change with age was observed in estimated (C aC ¯v) O2. It was concluded that the decline of\(\dot V_{o_{2max} } \) with aging in runners was mainly explained by the central factors (represented by the decline ofHR andQ in this study), rather than by the peripheral factor (represented by (C aC ¯v) O2).