The Physiological Characteristics of an 83-Year-Old Champion Female Master Runner

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose: To examine the cardiorespiratory, muscular, and skeletal characteristics of an 83-year-old champion female master athlete (called DL in this study) who had set multiple world running records in the 80-to-84-year-old age group. Methods: Measures of maximal oxygen uptake, maximal heart rate, maximal isometric torque for knee extensor muscles, thigh and triceps surae muscle volumes, and bone mineral density (BMD) of the proximal femur region were evaluated. Based on previously published equations, physiological age was determined for maximal oxygen uptake, maximal heart rate, and maximal isometric torque. Muscle volumes for the dominant leg were compared with previously published sex- and age-matched data using z scores. For BMD, T score and z score were calculated. Results: DL had the highest maximal oxygen uptake (42.3 mL·min−1·kg−1) ever observed for a female older than 80 years of age, which gave her a remarkable physiological age (27 y). By contrast, she had a physiological age closer to her biological age for maximal isometric torque (90 y) and maximal heart rate (74 y). The z scores for thigh (0.4) and triceps surae (1.1) muscle volumes revealed that DL’s leg muscles were affected almost as much as her sex- and age-matched peers. The T score (−1.7) for BMD showed that DL had osteopenia but no osteoporosis, and the z score (0.7) showed that DL’s BMD was similar to that of females of the same age. Conclusion: This single case study shows that the remarkable cardiorespiratory fitness coupled with intensive endurance training observed in a female master athlete was not associated with specific preservation of her muscular and skeletal characteristics.

Cattagni is with Laboratory Movement, Interactions, Performance (EA4334), Faculty of Sport Sciences, University of Nantes (UFR STAPS), Nantes, France. Gremeaux is with the Div de Médecine Physique et Réadaptation, Swiss Olympic Medical Center (CHUV), Lausanne, Switzerland; Inst of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland; and Pôle Rééducation-Réadaptation, CHU Dijon, Dijon, France. Lepers is with the UFR des Sciences du Sport, INSERM UMR1093-CAPS, Université Bourgogne Franche-Comté, Dijon, France.

Cattagni ( is corresponding author.

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