According to lead researcher Scott Trappe, director of Ball State’s Human Performance Laboratory, the study subjects were tested for VO2 max and had muscle biopsies taken. “To our knowledge, the VO2 max of the lifelong endurance athletes was the highest recorded in humans in this age group, and comparable to nonendurance-trained men 40 years younger,” said Trappe. “We also analyzed the aerobic capacity of their muscles by examining biopsies taken from thigh muscles, and found it was about double that of typical men. In fact, the oldest gentleman was 91 years old, but his aerobic capacity resembles that of a man 50 years younger."
The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, is important in helping to devise strategies for maintaining the health of a rapidly aging population. Exercise, it appears, could be a key part of making the golden years truly golden.