Aging has Greater Impact on Anaerobic versus Aerobic Power [MASTERS]

This article is “scientific proof” of something we already know.

We are constantly told we lose speed as we get older, but our aerobic capacity does not decline as fast as our speed.

But what about anaerobic capacity?

The point of know this attrition is setting realistic goals in your “comeback” or participation in a long distance running event for charity, for example.

I feel the injury rates are higher for sprinters as we get older because of the intensities involved, as well as poor biomechanics, loss of flexibility, and lack of mobility.  As well, some of us have extra body weight to deal with, in the form of adipose tissue (i.e. fat!)

If you are a private trainer or coach, you’ll probably have more clients wanting to run a 10K, half-marathon or marathon.  Thus you’ll have more success with their results than coaching masters sprinters, for example.  This also explains the participation numbers in long distance event, including ultra-marathons, compared to a Masters track meet!

At the end, you should just stick with your passion, whatever event you desire.  You’ll have someone to compete against!

Here is the  article’s abstract in  Aging has greater impact on anaerobic versus aerobic power in trained masters :

This study measured the relative rates of change of the three human energy systems across a 30-year age range. A cross-section of highly trained masters cyclists (n = 156 males and 17 females; 35–64 years) were tested for maximal cycling performance. There were 50 (29%) track sprint cyclists and the remaining (71%) were predominantly road cycling specialists. A 10 s peak power test measured anaerobic power, a 30 s test measured anaerobic capacity, and a progressive test to volitional fatigue was used to determine peak aerobic power. Participants’ exercise patterns were recorded using a physical activity recall questionnaire.

Linear regression showed significant changes in anaerobic performance with aging. Peak anaerobic power (W · kg?1) declined at a rate (mean ± SEE) of 8.1 ± 4.1% per decade (P < 0.0001) and anaerobic capacity (kJ · kg?1) declined at 8.0 ± 3.3% per decade (P < 0.0001). Peak aerobic power [W · kg?1] did not change significantly with age [?1.8 ± 1.5% per decade (P = 0.218)]. This cross-sectional study showed performance of the two anaerobic energy systems declined significantly across the age spectrum with no change in aerobic capacity.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • So many more tests needed – so little time. It is always cyclists being tested – an activity with no impact, no spring tension. Studies are so often cross-sectional – it only gives us a snapshot.

    Enough whining.

    I wonder if the decline measured is a result of physical deterioration or habit change.

    Maybe trainers of masters have to adopt new communication patterns – different phrases – to encourage people to jump & run explosively, but to do it at a certain percentage below maximal. There have always been injury warnings given to people about speed & sprint training. Maybe at my ripe old age XX.xx is my 100 metre time in a race or time trial – can it be determined or tested a “safer” repetition speed for me to work at? Like 110% of XX.xx.

    I know that for myself, at 55 years of age, I am less concerned with my ability or opportunity to be in the blocks at a meet. But I do want to be able to do starts, flying 80s, strides and bounding on every Monday and still be able to run good tempo sessions on Thursday.

    In this last 5 years I have toyed with 3 years of Lydiard-esque volume (not a natural runner – breakdowns as mileage regularly exceeded 70 miles per week) and 2 years doing a diluted version of sprint & mid-D training that was more in the 25 to 45 weekly miles range. The latter allowed an energy reserve that gave me a greater desire to strength train. I feel “younger” at 55 than I did at 52.

    Your column is a great influence! Thank you. Hopefully, some scientists of physical aging/performance will find a model of longitudinal testing that will provide us with more insight for the future.

  • “This article is “scientific proof” of something we already know.”

    I would be much more cautious with this kind of statement. I’ll disappoint a lot of people. But studies that involved human or even animals experiments are more than 80% of the time crap. There are many reasons for that. The main issues being, how did they chose the sampling (for example how big it is) and second what kind of experimental design (including statistical analysis) did they use). Most of the time due to lack of money the sample is way too small to be of any use or it is selected in a non-random way (which means you can’t apply tools coming from statistics). The reason those kind of results are still published is because researchers need to justify their existence (sad but true : publish or perish), they would like to do the experiment on a larger scale but that’s way too expensive for the research grant they get.

    A good results need at least the following features :
    -A big sample (the more sublte the thing you want to show the bigger the sample)
    -a detailed and appropriate statistical analysis,
    -more importantly, the result should be replicable by another lab.

    One understand that most of the time none of those requirements are fulfill since it is too expensive.

  • Wow!

    That might explain why it is getting more and more difficult to run a decent 200m, while our 60m times keep improving without effort.