Does exercise help an older person's aerobic capacity?

A study by Ball State University researchers has revealed that lifelong regular exercise can deliver dramatic effects on aerobic capacity, even for octogenarians. The study looked at the aerobic power of lifelong endurance athletes compared to those who didn’t have a regular exercise program. The athletes were former competitive cross-country skiers who exercised four to six times a week.

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.

Continue Learning about Fitness for Seniors

4 Tips for Staying Mobile
4 Tips for Staying Mobile
A juicy orange. A handful of crunchy walnuts sprinkled on a leafy green salad. A sweet, sun-ripened pear. Turns out clean, natural foods like these do...
Read More
Why is it important to replace muscle mass as we age?
Dr. Robin Miller, MDDr. Robin Miller, MD
It's important to replace muscle mass as we age, because it's key for overall strength, balance, vit...
More Answers
What's the proper way to stretch as I get older?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
Especially as we age, flexibility takes on an ever important role in health and fitness. Stretching ...
More Answers
How can older people stay physically fit?
Edward Schwartz, MDEdward Schwartz, MD
Doing aerobics, walking, and other activities that might have been easy when you were younger may be...
More Answers

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.