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Comparison of muscle function, bone mineral density and body composition of early starting and later starting older Masters athletes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number1050
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Jul 2019
DatePublished (current) - 27 Aug 2019


Masters endurance runners can epitomise healthy ageing; being reflective of the physiological processes of ageing without the compounded effects of inactivity. The primary aim of the present study was to determine, using cross-sectional data, whether individuals taking up training after the age of 50 years can achieve the same level of athletic performance and musculoskeletal characteristics in their older age as those who trained all of their adult lives. A total of 150 master endurance runners (age 68 (5) years; 111 male, 39 female) were divided into early starters (training all of their adulthood) and late starters (started training after age 50 years). A comparative non-athletic group of 59 healthy older adults (age 73 (4) years; 30 female, 29 male) were additionally included for analysis. Training intensity; age-graded performance and musculoskeletal assessments were performed. Results showed that there was no difference between athlete groups for training intensity or age-graded performance, despite the 30-year difference in training history. Body fat% and leg lean mass did not differ between athlete groups, but were 17% lower and 12% greater, respectively, in athlete groups compared with controls. Power normalised to body mass did not differ between any groups. Spine BMD was lower in late starters than controls, while early starters did not differ from late starters or controls. Hip BMD did not differ between any of the groups. These findings show that the Masters athletes we studied that started intense endurance running after the age of 50 years had lower body fat and higher leg lean mass compared to non-athletes. Body composition and athletic performance of the late starters was very similar to those who trained all of their adult lives.

    Research areas

  • masters athletes, body composition, bone mineral density, starting age, endurance running

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    Rights statement: This is the final published version of the article (version of record). It first appeared online via Frontiers Media at 10.3389/fphys.2019.01050 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

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    Licence: CC BY


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