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Superior Endurance Performance in Aging Mountain Runners

Burtscher M.a, b · Förster H.b · Burtscher J.c
aDepartment of Sport Sciences, Medical Section, University of Innsbruck, bAustrian Society for Mountain Medicine, and cFaculty of Business Administration, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria Gerontology 2008;54:268–271 (DOI:10.1159/000148649)


Background: Oxygen uptake at the anaerobic threshold (VO2AT) is considered as the main determinant for endurance performance in humans. Endurance performance steeply decreases with aging but seems to be kept exceedingly high in elite mountain runners. Methods: To obtain the age- and gender-related upper limits of endurance performance in this sport, we analyzed the results of the World Masters Athletic Championships in Mountain Running 2007. Additionally, to investigate the relationship between the individual VO2AT values and running times, laboratory tests were performed in 10 mountain runners. Results: The World Championships race times of the first 5 finishers of the 5-year age groups did not differ significantly from 35 to 49 years. The corresponding mean (± SD) values of the VO2AT were 68.0 ± 1.7 ml/min/kg in males and 58.1 ± 1.9 ml/min/kg in females. In the following age groups up to 70+ there was a decrease in the VO2AT of 29.1% in males and 33.9% in females. Conclusion: Thus, at the beginning of the 3rd millennium, elite mountain runners demonstrate that VO2AT and probably also VO2max may be held at top levels in humans up to the age of 45–49 years in both sexes. Despite the following decrease, endurance capacity remains about 3.5-fold higher in elite mountain runners up to 70+ years when compared to their untrained peers.


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