Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 27, Issue 4, pp 499–505 | Cite as

Fit elderly men can also stand: orthostatic tolerance and autonomic cardiovascular control in elderly endurance athletes

  • Marte Rognstad Mellingsæter
  • Torgeir Bruun Wyller
  • Anette Hylen Ranhoff
  • Vegard Bruun Wyller
Original Article


Background and aims

Endurance training may reduce orthostatic tolerance. Elderly people are prone to orthostatic intolerance, but the impact of endurance training in old age has been insufficiently explored.


54 healthy men; 30 endurance athletes and 24 controls, free from medication and chronic diseases, were subjected to head-up tilt tests: 30º for 10 min and 70º for 40 min. Non-invasive recordings of blood pressures, heart rate, stroke volume, end diastolic volume, total peripheral resistance, heart rate variability, blood pressure variability, and baroreflex sensitivity were obtained. We registered terminations of test due to frank syncope or unbearable presyncopal symptoms.


Mean age 71 years (range 65–84); athletes had lower body mass index (23.4 versus 24.8, p < 0.05) and lower resting heart rate (50 versus 61, p < 0.01). Blood pressures and total peripheral resistance were equal. End diastolic volume index, baroreflex sensitivity, and heart rate variability were higher among athletes, both HF-RRI (high-frequency variability, reflecting parasympathetic activity) and LF-RRI (low-frequency variability, reflecting both sympathetic and parasympathetic activity). Syncope or presyncopal symptoms occurred in 11 persons, 4 athletes and 7 controls (p = 0.2). Cox Regression analysis showed that higher heart rate at rest was the only variable associated with syncope.


Orthostatic tolerance was not reduced among elderly endurance athletes. Rather, there was a trend towards better orthostatic tolerance, which might be attributed to stronger parasympathetic cardiovascular control and larger blood volume.


Better orthostatic tolerance might be an additional benefit of physical activity in older age.


Elderly Athletes Orthostatic tolerance Syncope 



This work was supported by Oslo University Hospital.

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Ethical standard

Written, informed consent was obtained from all participants. The study complied with the Declaration of Helsinki and was approved by the Regional Committee for Ethics in Medical Research.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marte Rognstad Mellingsæter
    • 1
    • 2
  • Torgeir Bruun Wyller
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anette Hylen Ranhoff
    • 3
    • 4
  • Vegard Bruun Wyller
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Geriatric MedicineOslo University HospitalOsloNorway
  2. 2.Institute of Clinical MedicineUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.Department of Clinical ScienceUniversity of BergenBergenNorway
  4. 4.Diakonhjemmet HospitalOsloNorway
  5. 5.Department of PediatricsAkershus University HospitalLørenskogNorway

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