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Relationship between ventilatory function and age in master athletes and a sedentary reference population

Abstract

Ageing is accompanied with a decline in respiratory function. It is hypothesised that this may be attenuated by high physical activity levels. We performed spirometry in master athletes (71 women; 84 men; 35–86 years) and sedentary people (39 women; 45 men; 24–82 years), and calculated the predicted lung age (PLA). The negative associations of age with forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1; 34 mL·year−1) and other ventilatory parameters were similar in controls and master athletes. FEV1pred was 9 % higher (P < 0.005) and PLA 15 % lower (P = 0.013) in athletes than controls. There were no significant differences between endurance and power athletes and sedentary people in maximal inspiratory and expiratory pressure. Neither age-graded performance nor weekly training hours were significantly related to lung age. Life-long exercise does not appear to attenuate the age-related decrease in ventilatory function. The better respiratory function in master athletes than age-matched sedentary people might be due to self-selection and attrition bias.

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Acknowledgments

We appreciate the financial support from Stratec Company (Pforzheim, Germany) to perform oxygen diffusion measurements. We appreciate the support by Kurt Kaschke, Dieter Massin, Winston Thomas and Bridget Cushen as representatives from WMA, EVAA and BMAF. We are grateful to the participants—without their contribution this study would not have been possible.

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Correspondence to Hans Degens.

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Degens, H., Maden-Wilkinson, T.M., Ireland, A. et al. Relationship between ventilatory function and age in master athletes and a sedentary reference population. AGE 35, 1007–1015 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11357-012-9409-7

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Keywords

  • FEV1
  • Lung age
  • Mouth pressure
  • Physical activity
  • Peak expiratory flow
  • Physical exercise