The relationships between age and running performance variables in master runners

  • Emma J. LeeEmail author
  • Eric M. Snyder
  • Christopher J. Lundstrom
Original Article



Peak aerobic capacity (\(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2peak}}}}\)) declines with age, but running economy (RE) may not. We evaluated VO2peak and RE in master runners and determined whether age is associated with these measures.


In a cross-sectional study, runners completed two running tests within 4 weeks of a goal race of 10–26.2 miles. Subjects ran for 5 min at 88% of predicted maximum heart rate, approximating a marathon-intensity effort (MIE), then performed a \(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2peak}}}}\) test. Running economy in the MIE was measured using oxygen cost with body mass scaled allometrically (\({\text{allo}}\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\)); energy cost (EC), determined using caloric equivalents; and percent of \(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2peak}}}}\) (%\(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2peak}}}}\)). Pearson’s correlations were used to determine relationships between age and running performance variables.


Runners (n = 31, 13 females; mean age 54.9 ± 8.4 years) had a mean VO2peak of 52.5 ± 7.9 ml O2 kg−1 min−1. Age was significantly correlated with \(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2peak}}}}\) (r = − 0.580, p = 0.001) and \({\text{allo}}\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\) (r = − 0.454, p = 0.034). Age was related to EC in females (r = 0.649, p = 0.042) and MIE \(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\) in males (r = − 0.600, p = 0.039).


In this population, age was negatively associated with \(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2peak}}}}\) and \({\text{allo}}\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\). Females showed a positive relationship between age and EC, while males had a negative correlation between age and MIE \(\dot {V}{{\text{O}}_{\text{2}}}\). Aerobic capacity declines with age, but there may be sex differences in age-related alterations to submaximal running.


Aging Peak aerobic capacity Running economy Energy cost Sex differences 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

This study was funded by NIH grant R01 HL208962-05. The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Statement of human rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Minnesota.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia S.r.l., part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of KinesiologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

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