The presence of a maturational threshold that modulates children’s physiological responses to exercise training continues to be debated, not least due to a lack of longitudinal evidence to address the question. The purpose of this study was to investigate the interaction between swim-training status and maturity in nineteen trained (T, 10 ± 1 years, −2.4 ± 1.9 years prepeak height velocity, 8 boys) and fifteen untrained (UT, 10 ± 1 years, −2.3 ± 0.9 years prepeak height velocity, 5 boys) children, at three annual measurements.
In addition to pulmonary gas exchange measurements, stroke volume (SV) and cardiac output (Q) were estimated by thoracic bioelectrical impedance during incremental ramp exercise.
At baseline and both subsequent measurement points, trained children had significantly (p < .05) higher peak oxygen uptake (year1 T 1.75 ± 0.34 vs. UT 1.49 ± 0.22; year 2 T 2.01 ± 0.31 vs. UT 1.65 ± 0.08; year 3 T 2.07 ± 0.30 vs. UT 1.77 ± 0.16 l min−1) and Q (year 1 T 15.0 ± 2.9 vs. UT 13.2 ± 2.2; year 2 T 16.1 ± 2.8 vs. UT 13.8 ± 2.9; year 3 T 19.3 ± 4.4 vs. UT 16.0 ± 2.7 l min−1). Furthermore, the SV response pattern differed significantly with training status, demonstrating the conventional plateau in UT but a progressive increase in T. Multilevel modeling revealed that none of the measured pulmonary or cardiovascular parameters interacted with maturational status, and the magnitude of the difference between T and UT was similar, irrespective of maturational status.
The results of this novel longitudinal study challenge the notion that differences in training status in young people are only evident once a maturational threshold has been exceeded.