Abstract

We examined the hemodynamic factors associated with the lower maximal O2 consumption (VO2max) in older formerly elite distance runners. Heart rate and VO2 were measured during submaximal and maximal treadmill exercise in 11 master [66 +/- 8 (SD) yr] and 11 young (32 +/- 5 yr) male runners. Cardiac output was determined using acetylene rebreathing at 30, 50, 70, and 85% VO2max. Maximal cardiac output was estimated using submaximal stroke volume and maximal heart rate. VO2max was 36% lower in master runners (45.0 +/- 6.9 vs. 70.4 +/- 8.0 ml.kg-1.min-1, P less than or equal to 0.05), because of both a lower maximal cardiac output (18.2 +/- 3.5 vs. 25.4 +/- 1.7 l.min-1) and arteriovenous O2 difference (16.6 +/- 1.6 vs. 18.7 +/- 1.4 ml O2.100 ml blood-1, P less than or equal to 0.05). Reduced maximal heart rate (154.4 +/- 17.4 vs. 185 +/- 5.8 beats.min-1) and stroke volume (117.1 +/- 16.1 vs. 137.2 +/- 8.7 ml.beat-1) contributed to the lower cardiac output in the older athletes (P less than or equal 0.05). These data indicate that VO2max is lower in master runners because of a diminished capacity to deliver and extract O2 during exercise.