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Keywords:

  • aging;
  • exercise;
  • cardiac function;
  • echocardiography

As the human lifespan becomes progressively extended, potential health-related effects of intense aerobic exercise after age 65 need evaluation. This study evaluates the cardiovascular (CV), pulmonary, and metabolic effects of competitive distance running on age-related deterioration in men between 69 (±3) and 77 (±2) years (mean ± SD). Twelve elderly competitive distance runners (ER) underwent oxygen consumption and echo/Doppler treadmill stress testing (Balke protocol) for up to 10 years. Twelve age-matched sedentary controls (SC) with no history of CV disease were similarly tested and the results compared for the initial three series of the study. CV data clearly separated the ER from SC. At entry, resting and maximal heart rate, systolic/diastolic blood pressure, peak oxygen consumption (VO2max), and E/A ratio of mitral inflow were better in the ER (P < 0.05 vs. SC). With aging, ER had a less deterioration of multiple health parameters. Exceptions were VO2max and left ventricular diastolic function (E/A, AFF, IVRT) that decreased (P < 0.05, Year 10 vs. Year 1). Health advantages of high-level aerobic exercise were demonstrated in the ER when compared to SC. Importantly, data collected in ER over 10 years confirm the benefit of intensive exercise for slowing several negative effects of aging. However, the normative drop of exercise capacity in the seventh and eighth decades reduces the potential athleticism plays in prevention of CV events. (Echocardiography 2010;27:5-10)