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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2000 Mar;278(3):H829-34.

Meta-analysis of the age-associated decline in maximal aerobic capacity in men: relation to training status.

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Human Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, Center for Physical Activity, Disease Prevention, and Aging, Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


Based on cross-sectional data, we recently reported that, in contrast to the prevailing view, the rate of decline in maximal oxygen consumption (VO(2 max)) with age is greater in physically active compared with sedentary healthy women. We tested this hypothesis in men using a meta-analytic study of VO(2 max) values in the published literature. A total of 242 studies (538 subject groups and 13,828 subjects) met the inclusion criteria and were arbitrarily separated into sedentary (214 groups, 6,231 subjects), active (159 groups, 5,621 subjects), and endurance-trained (165 groups, 1,976 subjects) populations. Body fat percent increased with age in sedentary and active men (P < 0.001), whereas no change was observed in endurance-trained men. VO(2 max) was inversely and strongly related to age within each population (r = -0.80 to -0.88, all P < 0. 001) and was highest in endurance-trained and lowest in sedentary populations at any age. Absolute rates of decline in VO(2 max) with age were not different (P > 0.05) in sedentary (-4.0 ml. kg(-1). min(-1). decade(-1)), active (-4.0), and endurance-trained (-4.6) populations. Similarly, there were no group differences (P > 0.05) in the relative (%) rates of decline in VO(2 max) with advancing age (-8.7, -7.3, and -6.8%/decade, respectively). Maximal heart rate was inversely related to age within each population (r = -0.88 to -0.93, all P < 0.001), but the rate of age-related reduction was not different among the populations. There was a significant decline in running mileage and speed with advancing age in the endurance-trained men. The present cross-sectional meta-analytic findings do not support the hypothesis that the rate of decline in VO(2 max) with age is related to habitual aerobic exercise status in men.

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