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Meta-analysis Of The Age-associated Decline In Maximal Aerobic Capacity In Men: Relation To Training Status

Teresa M. Wilson, Hirofumi Tanaka

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Based on cross-sectional data, we recently reported that, in contrast to the prevailing view, the rate of decline in maximal oxygen consumption (V˙o 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 ofV˙o 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.V˙o 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 inV˙o 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 inV˙o 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 inV˙o 2 max with age is related to habitual aerobic exercise status in men.