Are aging runners less economical ?

As the year comes to an end many will begin to think about their future health. Many will start running. Starting is often the hard part, trying to get the old machine working again can take a little time. And as we age, it is not uncommon to get demoralized by the decline of our abilities and performance. This study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research gives hope to us all as we age and for those that are just starting out. Bottom line, it is just going to take a little work.

The study shown below concluded that the runners over 60 were just as economical as even the youngest ones in the study. Oxygen utilization was just a efficient. The obvious problem is that as we age the other parts are not quite as youthful. Muscular strength, muscle mass, tissue elasticity, cartilage pliability etc all reduce and so power output and other parameters reduce.  The good thing is that with sensible training, all areas can be improved which when combined with a system that is still economical into our aging years, we can all still see some pretty bright days ahead of us.  Sure the parts are going to be more apt to breakdown and tolerate less, but even into the golden years, our discussions about training smarter, not harder still hold true.
We have attached the info for the article if you want to find it for your clientele or for your office or gym.                                                                                                                                       
J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Nov;25(11):2971-9.

Aging and factors related to running economy.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship that age has on factors affecting running economy (RE) in competitive distance runners. Fifty-one male and female subelite distance runners (Young [Y]: 18-39 years [n = 18]; Master [M]: 40-59 years [n = 22]; and Older [O]: 60-older [n = 11]) were measured for RE, step rate, lactate threshold (LT), VO2max, muscle strength and endurance, flexibility, power, and body composition. An RE test was conducted at 4 different velocities (161, 188, 215, and 241 m·min(-1)), with subjects running for 5 minutes at each velocity. , , , 

Bottom line from the study: The results from this cross-sectional analysis suggest that age-related declines in running performance are associated with declines in maximal and submaximal cardiorespiratory variables and declines in strength and power, not because of declines in running economy.                                                                             


Gretchen Reynolds wrote a great article for the NYTimes last week on this topic.  The link to her article is above. “For Older Runners, Good News and Bad.”