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S Afr Med J. 1981 Jan 31;59(5):153-7.

Fifty years of training and competition in the marathon: Wally Hayward, age 70--a physiological profile.


A 70-year-old South African long-distance runner, holder of his age group's marathon record and former Olympic marathon runner, was studied to determine the effects of 52 years of regular training on functional capacity and health. Maximal treadmill exercise testing revealed no ischaemic ECG abnormalities and an excellent functional capacity (58,6 ml/kg/min). Submaximal testing showed that the subject ran at approximately 86% of maximum aerobic capacity when completing the marathon in his record time. The subject was very lean (13,6% fat) for his age. Muscles contained 82% slow-twitch fibres. Pulmonary function and blood chemical values were within normal limits. Although total cholesterol was somewhat high (247 mg/dl), high-density lipoprotein cholesterol was elevated (53 mg/dl). Twenty-four-hour Holter monitoring revealed no significant ventricular ectopic activity although frequent premature atrial contractions were noted. M-mode echocardiography revealed a normal heart with moderately hypertrophied left ventricular wall thickness. Radionuclide cine angiography showed a normal ejection fraction at rest (69%), followed by a slight drop at maximal exercise (62%). Left ventricular regional wall motion was considered normal at both rest and exercise. He had no significant orthopaedic abnormalities but showed normal flexibility and well-balanced muscular strength. Thickened heel pads were also noted. These results appear to indicate a beneficial effect of habitual physical activity upon the retention of functional capacity with ageing.

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