Oxygen Uptake and Endurance Fitness in Children: A Developmental Perspective

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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In adults, maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) serves as a useful indicator of cardiopulmonary reserve as well as performance in endurance exercise events. Whether VO2max can be interpreted in the same manner in children is less certain, since maximal oxygen uptake per kg body weight remains essentially stable during the growing years while endurance performance improves dramatically. Gains in ability in endurance events may be achieved through improved submaximal exercise economy, qualitative changes in oxygen delivery not indicated by VO2max, or the development of nonaerobic factors (speed, strength). Maximal oxygen uptake in children may therefore be a less valid indicator of cardiopulmonary function, endurance capacity, and response to training than in adult subjects.

This paper was developed from a presentation at the 1989 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine in Baltimore, in a symposium titled “Training Adaptations and Cautions in Pre- and Post-Pubescent Children” organized and chaired by Bo Fernhall.

Thomas W. Rowland, M.D., is with the Department of Pediatrics, Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA 01199.

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