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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2003 Feb;94(2):764-9. Epub 2002 Oct 18.

Declines in physiological functional capacity with age: a longitudinal study in peak swimming performance.

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Department of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Colorado at Boulder, 80309, USA.


We followed up swimming performance times of 321 women and 319 men who participated in the US Masters Swimming Championships over a 12-yr period. All swimmers placed in the top 10 in their age group over 3 yr (mean = 5 yr). A random coefficients model for repeated measures was used to derive a line of best fit from a group of regression lines for each subject. Both 50- and 1,500-m swimming performance declined modestly until approximately 70 yr of age, where a more rapid decline was observed in both men and women. Compared with 1,500-m swimming, the 50-m freestyle declined more modestly and slowly with age. The rate and magnitude of declines in swimming performance with age were greater in women than in men in 50-m freestyle; such sex-related differences were not observed in 1,500-m freestyle. Overall, the variability along a population regression line increased markedly with advancing age. The present longitudinal findings indicate that 1) swimming performance declines progressively until age 70, where the decrease becomes quadratic; 2) the rates of the decline in swimming performance with age are greater in a long-duration than in a short-duration event, suggesting a relatively smaller loss of anaerobic muscular power with age compared with cardiovascular endurance; 3) the age-related rates of decline are greater in women than in men only in a short-duration event; and 4) the variability of the age-related decline in performance increases markedly with advancing age.

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